AFCON 2023 Semi Finals: 5 Things We Learned as Nwabali Shows Williams Who’s Boss

AFCON 2023 Semi Finals: 5 Things We Learned as Nwabali Shows Williams Who’s Boss

Godwin Nii Armah Tagoe
updated at February 13, 2024 at 11:54 AM
In this article:
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Ivory Coast logo
Cote DIvoire
Ivory Coast
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Super Eagles
South Africa
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South Africa
South Africa
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Stanley Nwabali logo
S. Nwabali
-GNigeria logo
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R. Williams
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  • Nigeria will face 2023 Africa Cup of Nations hosts, Ivory Coast in the final
  • The Super Eagles beat South Africa while the Elephants pipped DR Congo
  • The two West African powerhouses will meet in the AFCON final on Sunday

The 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations Grand Finale between Ivory Coast and Nigeria, on February 11, is poised to be captivating.

The Super Eagles secured their spot after defeating South Africa on penalties, while the Elephants scored a lone goal to eliminate DR Congo.

Stanley Nwabali, Ronwen Williams, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, South Africa, DR Congo, Semifinals, AFCON
Nigeria and Ivory Coast will meet in what promises to be a tantalising 2023 AFCON Grand Finale. Photos by Issouf SANOGO and SIA KAMBOU.
Source: Getty Images

Sports Brief looks at five pieces of insight gleaned from these crucial matches as the month-long tournament gradually draws to a close.

AFCON semi-finals: 5 things we learned

5. Ivory Coast's run: luck or determination?

During the team's pre-match conference, interim manager, Emerse Fae, was questioned about whether Ivory Coast's progress to the semi-finals was a stroke of luck.

However, the 40-year-old former footballer firmly asserted that luck results from giving one's best on the field. Ivory Coast initially struggled in the group stage, resulting in the dismissal of head coach, Jean Louis-Gasset.

Yet, they rallied, overcoming adversity to defeat Senegal and Mali in thrilling fashion. Now, facing Nigeria in the finals, Ivory Coast's journey, marked by determination and resilience, sets the stage for an intense showdown.

The lingering question persists: is their journey in the championship fueled by luck or sheer determination?

4. Football: A game of fine margins

Both losing semi-finalists, DR Congo and South Africa, will reflect on their respective matches and still harbour the belief that they could have been the ones competing at the Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara on February 11.

However, fate had other plans, with Ivory Coast and Nigeria now poised for what promises to be a tense and thrilling final.

South Africa had several close opportunities, particularly in the first half, but were foiled by a heavy touch or weak shots that failed to trouble the Nigerian goalkeeper.

Even in the dying moments, Khuliso Mudau had a clear chance to score but unfortunately blasted his effort wide.

Meanwhile, in Ebimpe, DR Congo found the net early in the first half, only for it to be disallowed due to a foul on goalkeeper, Yahia Fofana.

While some referees might have allowed Cedric Bakambu's goal to stand, such is the unpredictable nature of football.

3. DR Congo puts up a fight but falls short

Despite facing unfavourable circumstances, such as playing against the host nation with an army of supporters backing them, the Leopards of DR Congo vowed to challenge Ivory Coast.

Right from the start, they battled fiercely, ensuring a tightly contested match. They even had a goal disallowed, per Eurosport, highlighting their determination to upset the West African powerhouse.

However, it wasn't enough, as Fae's side proved too strong. Franck Kessie's powerful strike hit the post before Sebastien Haller's improvised shot found the back of the net, securing the victory for Les Elephants.

2. History echoes loudly

The African Cup of Nations has a knack for echoing its past, often repeating historic matchups and outcomes.

True to this trend, the anticipated Ivory Coast vs. Nigeria final unfolded before our eyes, as predicted previously by Sports Brief.

The historical parallels were evident: Nigeria previously triumphed over South Africa with a 2-0 victory at the same stage 24 years ago, while Ivory Coast emerged victorious against DR Congo with a 3-1 win back in 2015.

In the latest encounters, the Super Eagles secured their final berth with a 4-2 penalty shootout win following a 1-1 draw after extra time, while the Elephants advanced with a lone goal from Haller.

1. Nwabali beats Williams in penalty battle

Nigeria's Stanley Nwabali has significantly bolstered his chances of clinching the Golden Glove Award at the 34th AFCON following his standout performance in the semi-final clash against South Africa.

The Chippa United goalkeeper showcased exceptional skill, making crucial saves throughout the intense 120 minutes of play and delivering two vital stops during the penalty shootout, ultimately propelling the Super Eagles into the final, as cited by The Guardian.

The anticipated showdown between Nwabali and South Africa's Ronwen Williams, both revered for their goalkeeping prowess, captivated fans' attention.

While Nwabali had conceded just once prior to the match, Williams had notably saved four penalties in the quarter-finals and shipped in a moderate two.

In the end, Nwabali emerged victorious in the penalty shootout, saving twice, while Williams could not make any stops, solidifying Nwabali's stellar performance.

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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