The much-awaited Super Eagles vs Bafana Bafana game lived up to the billing, with both sides coming into the game off the back of a rivalry started by the South African side in 1996.
The Super Eagles came into the game with an unbeaten record, having drawn only one game – their first game of AFCON 2023 against Equatorial Guinea.
However, South Africa started their tournament with a loss against Mali. Both sides that drew points off the two teams have already exited AFCON 2023.
The Super Eagles, who have not lost any AFCON game to the Bafana Bafana, continued the tradition with a 4-2 penalty shootout win over the South Africans.
Super Eagles fail to fly, as Bafana Bafana contain them in the first half
Jose Peseiro started the game with Zaidu Sanusi on the bench. Ola Aina took his place on the left, while Bright Osayi Samuel was on the right.
Hugo Broos tweaked his team by opting for three at the back.
Like in most games at AFCON 2023, the Super Eagles started with an early pressure on South Africa and survived an early scare as Victor Osimhen grabbed his abdomen.
The early skirmishes saw the Super Eagles take the game to Bafana Bafana, but the South African defence refused to buckle.
The Super Eagles had the first advantage. They created chances but found it arduous to put it in the net.
Bafana Bafana settled the game before the 20th minute and did well to contain the Super Eagles.
Nigeria 1-1 South Africa (Ekong, Mokoena)
— Prince of Lagos (@Demola320) February 7, 2024
The Super Eagles continued to probe at the South African defence, with the Bafana Bafana sitting deep.
The game plan by South Africa was to sit deep and catch the Super Eagles on the break, and it was working with Nigeria struggling to break down their defence.
By the 30th minute, Bafana Bafana had shown intent as Nigeria started giving away possession easily.
South Africa dominated possession and had more shots on target, with the first half winding to its end.
Alex Iwobi got a rare shot on target for Nigeria, but it was well-saved by Ronwen Williams.
In the 40th minute, Makgopa rifled off a shot from just outside the box, but Nwabali parried it out for a corner kick for South Africa.
Bafana Bafana was showing the Super Eagles no respect as they looked prepped for the game.
Osimhen, who had been quiet, came close to drawing first blood off a 45th-minute corner kick, but his header was wide.
The Super Eagles were not settled in the game. They appeared nervy and made it easy for Bafana Bafana to get a foothold in the game.
The first half was not the best for Nigeria as it finished 0-0.
Bafana Bafana wait late to peg the Super Eagles back
The Super Eagles started the second half on the front foot. In the first minute of the second period, they pegged Bafana Bafana in their box, but desperate defending stopped Nigeria from scoring.
Bafana Bafana kept looking to hit Nigeria on the counter, keeping the Super Eagles' defence on their toes.
As the Super Eagles kept pressurizing the Bafana Bafana defence, they paid close attention to Victor Osimhen.
Within the first ten minutes of the second half, the Super Eagles won three corner kicks, but nothing came of it.
In the 56th minute, Victor Osimhen came close again, but his header off a Bright Osayi-Samuel cross was over the bar.
Despite the pressure from the Super Eagles, Bafana Bafana looked dangerous on the break.
— Abraham John (@jae_abrahams) February 7, 2024
In the 64th minute, Osimhen weaved and meandered into the box. As they tried to stop him, he was hacked down, and the referee pointed to the spot for a penalty.
Ekong stepped forward to take the penalty and like against Ivory Coast. The captain put it straight down the middle and under the goalkeeper.
Makgopa came close to drawing South Africa level in the 75th minute. He received a pass in front of the box, turned Ekong and rifled a shot that fizzed inches wide off target.
The Ekong goal stung Bafana Bafana into action as they made forays into the Super Eagles' attack.
There was drama in the closing stages of the game. Nigeria thought they had scored the winning goal in the 84th minute through Osimhen, but the referee reversed it and awarded a penalty to South Africa.
Mokoena sent Nwabali the wrong way to level scores.
Four minutes into added time, South Africa could have stolen the lead. Mokoena' saw his freekick parried by Nwabali, but the rebound was sent over the bar.
After 90 minutes, it was Nigeria 1-1 South Africa.
Stanley Nwabal is shootout hero
Bafana Bafana slowed the tempo in extra time as they sought to drag the game into penalties.
With five minutes of the first half extra time left, Nigeria went on a break, and Osimhen hit a fierce shot from outside the box, but Williams was up to the task.
The first half ended with both sides failing to score.
The second half saw an Osimhen header at the end of an Aina cross, but he couldn't keep it down.
Peseiro felt he had seen enough. He decided to remove Osimhen for Terem Moffi in the 109th minute.
There was more drama a few minutes later as Grant Kekana upended Moffi as he made his way at the South African goal and received his marching orders.
Extra time produced no dramas as the game finished all square.
In the ensuing penalty shootouts, the Super Eagles triumphed with the Nigerian side scoring four of their penalties and Nwabali saving two to send them into the final.
For his heroics in the shootout, Nwabali was awarded the Man of the Match.
Nigeria v South Africa Lineups
Stanley Nwabali, Ademola Lookman (Kelechi Iheanacho 102), Victor Osimhen (Terem Moffi 109), Moses Simon (Samuel Chukwueze 63), Alex Iwobi (Alhassan Yusuf 63), Frank Onyeka (Joe Aribo 102), Bright Osayi-Samuel (Kenneth Omeruo 120), Calvin Bassey, Semi Ajayi, William Troost-Ekong, Ola Aina
Subs: Chidozie Awaziem, Kenneth Omeruo, Alhassan Yusuf, Joe Aribo, Samuel Chukwueze, Bruno Onyemaechi, Francis Uzoho, Terem Moffi, Paul Onuachu, Kelechi Iheanacho, Ahmed Musa, Joe Aribo
Ronwen Williams, Evidence Makgopa, Percy Tau, Themba Zwane (Zakhele Lepasa 75, Nkosinathi Sibisi 117), Sphephelo Sithole, Siyanda Xulu (Mihlali Mayambela 76), Teboho Mokoena, Aubrey Modiba, Mothobi Mvala, Grant Kekana, K. Mudau
Subs: Zakhele Lepasa, Mihlali Mayambela, Thabang Monare, Jayden Adams, Oswin Appollis, Thapelo Morena, Nkosinathi Sibisi, Terrence Mashego, Nyiko Mobbie, Ricardo Goss, Veli Mothwa
Nigeria vs South Africa stats
|Shots on target
|Shots off target
This article was most recently revised and updated 2 weeks ago