AFCON 2023: 3 Key Chances That Could Have Changed the Tie for South Africa As Nigeria Reach Final

AFCON 2023: 3 Key Chances That Could Have Changed the Tie for South Africa As Nigeria Reach Final

Godwin Nii Armah Tagoe
updated at February 8, 2024 at 7:58 AM
In this article:
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South Africa
South Africa
Nigeria logo
CAF Africa Cup of Nations logo
Percy Tau logo
P. Tau
Al Ahly SC logoFSouth Africa logo
Evidence Makgopa logo
E. Makgopa
Orlando Pirates logoFSouth Africa logo
Khuliso Johnson Mudau logo
-MSouth Africa logo
  • Nigeria reached the final of the ongoing 2023 AFCON final after beating South Africa
  • While the Super Eagles rejoice, it is Bafana Bafana that will be rueing their missed chances
  • Here's a look at the 3 moments which could have swung the tie in favour of Hugo Broos' men

The Super Eagles of Nigeria secured a spot in the final of the soon-to-end 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations by triumphing over South Africa on penalties in Bouake.

In a hard-fought battle, the West African giants, vying for their fourth AFCON title, displayed resilience to overcome Bafana Bafana in a post-match penalty shootout.

South Africa, Bafana Bafana, Percy Tau, Evidence Makgopa, Mudau, Nigeria
Percy Tau and Khuliso Mudau were guilty of missing glaring opportunities for South Africa. Photos by Issouf SANOGO/Getty Images and @ESPNAfrica/Twitter.
Source: Getty Images

How Nigeria beat South Africa to reach final

According to France24, Nigeria took the lead with a goal from skipper William Troost-Ekong via a penalty kick.

However, Hugo Broos' side also found the equaliser from the penalty spot after a lengthy VAR review nullified Victor Osimhen's goal.

With the teams deadlocked after 120 minutes of unbridled action, the outcome was decided by penalties, where Stanley Nwabali emerged as the hero for Nigeria, per The Standard, while Ronwen Williams struggled to save against the Super Eagles.

Despite Nigeria's victory, several pivotal moments could have swung the match in favour of the Rainbow Nation.

Sports Brief examines three critical instances that might have propelled South Africa into the Grand Finale instead of Nigeria.

Mokoena's last-gasp freekick, Mudau's miss

In the dying moments of regular play, as momentum favoured Hugo Broos' charges, Teboho Mokoena stood poised for a free-kick opportunity just outside the box, reminiscent of his strike against Morocco.

Unlike his previous success against Yassine Bounou, Mokoena's powerful kick was met with a brilliant save by Nwabali, only for the rebound to graciously fall to Khuliso Mudau with an open net beckoning.

Unfortunately, Mudau's subsequent shot sailed over the crossbar, sparing Nigeria's defence from a heartbreaking defeat at the death and keeping the match level.

Surely, if Mudau had converted, it would have likely sealed victory for the 1996 champions, but fate had other plans.

Percy Tau's 'baby' shots

Despite being arguably South Africa's standout player, Percy Tau struggled to deliver when it counted most during critical moments of the game.

Undoubtedly a threat to Nigeria's defence, Tau's speed and agility posed a challenge for the usually solid Super Eagles backline led by captain Troost-Ekong.

However, crucially, Tau faltered in key moments, often mishandling the ball or failing to muster a strong shot on goal.

One notable instance occurred in the 27th minute when he found himself in a promising position but disappointingly directed his shot, almost as if passing it, directly to Nwabali, who easily gathered the ball.

Evidence Makgopa tests Nwabali but not enough

In tandem with Tau, Evidence Makgopa posed significant challenges for Nigeria's defence and came close to breaking the deadlock just before halftime, in the 36th minute.

After sustained pressure in the Nigerian penalty area throughout the first half, the 23-year-old striker seized an opportunity created by Troost-Ekong's defensive lapse.

Makgopa attempted a bending shot, but Nwabali intervened with a crucial save, deflecting the ball to safety with his outstretched hand.

However, upon closer examination, had Makgopa applied more power to his strike, the outcome might have been different.

Mosimane reacts to Bafana Bafana heartbreak

Sports Brief also reported that following Nigeria's victory over South Africa to secure a spot in the final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, esteemed South African coach Pitso Mosimane has shared his reaction.

Currently managing Saudi Arabian club Abha Club, Mosimane chose to commend Bafana Bafana's efforts and focus on the positives rather than dwelling on the negatives.

After the match, the former Mamelodi Sundowns trainer penned his thoughts.

"Absolutely. We gave a very big fight, and no team was comfortable playing against SA. Now for the final in Morocco.
Godwin Nii Armah Tagoe photo
Godwin Nii Armah Tagoe
Godwin Nii Armah Tagoe is a Ligue 1, Bundesliga, and La Liga editor with five-year experience. He previously worked with Sports Corna and 360SportsGH.
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