AFCON final: Nigeria up against hosts Ivory Coast


Substitute forward Kelechi Iheanacho and goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali played pivotal roles as Nigeria secured a 4-2 victory on penalties against South Africa in an exhilarating Africa Cup of Nations semi-final clash on Wednesday. The three-time champions will now face hosts Ivory Coast in the final after the latter dominated the Democratic Republic of Congo but secured a narrow 1-0 win in Abidjan.

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Nigeria’s triumph came after a 1-1 draw in regular time and extra time in Bouake, providing another thrilling episode at this biennial African football spectacle. The final on Sunday promises to be an intense showdown.

Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro praised his team’s resilience, stating, “Our team has a huge state of mind. The team fights together. There are 25 of us (in the squad), and it’s difficult to beat us.” Despite a controversial disallowed Nigerian goal and a South African equalizer, Peseiro expressed his happiness and acknowledged the determination of his players.

South Africa coach Hugo Broos reflected on the cruelty of football, mentioning their contrasting fortunes in matches against Cape Verde and Nigeria. Despite playing well against Nigeria, they lost on penalties.

Kelechi Iheanacho, from English second-tier club Leicester City, played a decisive role by converting the winning penalty. Stanley Nwabali, the goalkeeper from South African top-flight club Chippa United, played a crucial part by saving penalties from Teboho Mokoena and Evidence Makgopa.

The match saw Nigeria take the lead from a penalty converted by captain William Troost-Ekong, countered by a South African penalty netted by Mokoena. The contest remained gripping, with both teams missing chances, and the drama continued into extra time.

Victor Osimhen, the star forward for Nigeria, played a tireless match but was substituted in extra time. South Africa played the last seven minutes with 10 men after Grant Kekana received a straight red card. The victory marked Nigeria’s eighth appearance in the AFCON final, with celebrations erupting back home.

In another thrilling encounter, Ivory Coast secured a 1-0 win over DR Congo, with Sebastien Haller scoring the decisive goal in the 65th minute. Haller’s remarkable comeback in the tournament continued after missing the group stage due to injury. Ivory Coast, recovering from a 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea in the group stage, advanced to the final, setting the stage for a compelling clash with Nigeria.

Emman Tochi
Emman Tochi
Emma Tochi is Naija247news Media Northern Bureau Chief, he's based in FCT Abuja. He overseas the northern operations of this business media

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