The Africa Cup of Nations is starting to pick up some real steam, with many of the countries involved putting together some really nice runs to put themselves in with a great chance of winning the whole thing. Last night, as reported by BBC and The Guardian, we saw Nigeria take a big step towards the trophy as they overcame adversity to defeat South Africa.
Coming into this game it was quite clear to see that Nigeria were the favourites, but South Africa’s win over Egypt certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons. They proved themselves to be a team with a great deal of heart and determination, and in this quarter-final, that almost paid off for them once again.
Avoiding the shock
The Super Eagles were in control of the game for the majority of the 90 minutes, to the point where they had a few really good opportunities to make this more of a rout than what it was. Just before the half hour mark they were able to make their pressure pay, though, as Samuel Chukwueze took Alex Iwobi’s cross under control before firing home.
They took the lead into half time and all the way up to the 70 minute mark, but as the minutes ticked by, you could just sense that South Africa were starting to gain some confidence. They aren’t exactly one of the most threatening teams in African football but they can put together a few really important passages of play when they want to, and they did just that with 19 minutes remaining in the tie.
Bongani Zungu headed home an equaliser that was initially ruled out due to offside, but a VAR ruling (introduced for the quarter-finals) overturned the decision. From that point on it really did seem as if the upset was coming once again, until late in the game when Nigeria were able to take the bull by the horns and send their fans into one hell of a frenzy.
The winning moment
William Troost-Ekong scored a late winner, ensuring that South African hearts broke and Nigerian hearts went onto cloud nine and beyond. It was a scrappy goal in what was a really scrappy game at times, but they aren’t going to care one bit about that.
They’ll now go on to face either Algeria or Ivory Coast in what is set to be the second semi-final of the two, and they’ll almost certainly fancy their chances. Both nations are strong and will serve as tough opposition, but even with that being the case, Nigeria have the kind of unity within their squad that will give them confidence at this late stage of proceedings.
South Africa have nothing to be ashamed about and can be really proud of their performance at this tournament. They’ll look towards the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and the 2022 FIFA World Cup now as tournaments in which they can make a real impact, which they may not have expected to be the case prior to this run of theirs.