What we learned as Super Eagles beat South Africa to book AFCON 2023 final spot

What we learned as Super Eagles beat South Africa to book AFCON 2023 final spot
Credit: Icon Sport

A fiercely contested affair between the Super Eagles and South Africa ended 1-1 after extra-time in the semi-finals of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2023).

But it was Nigeria who advanced to the finals after recording a 4-2 penalty shootout victory over Hugo Broos' side as goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali saved two spot-kicks and Kelechi Iheanacho dispatched the winning kick.

In a match that celebrated football extravaganza, both teams showcased bravery in the grandest stage of African football to give fans a performance that will live long in their memories.

Here are some outstanding lessons drawn from the game!

What we learned in Super Eagles win over South Africa

The heroics of Stanley Nwabali

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Credit: Icon Sport

Stanley Nwabali has continued to win the hearts of many Nigerians after putting up another big performance for the team against Bafana Bafana.

The Chippa United shot-stopper was in brilliant form right from the first-half where he made two saves to keep Nigeria in the game. During the second half and extra-time, Nwabali made two more saves before going on to keep Teboho Mokoena and Evidence Makgopa's effort from crossing the goal line during the penalty shootout victory.

The heroics of the 27-year-old ensured Nigeria booked a place in the finals for the first time since 2013.

The team looks very strong

Peseiro's troops were on course to register their fifth consecutive clean sheet of the tournament before an unfortunate foul from Yusuf Alhassan was spotted by VAR.

Nigeria vs Bafana Bafana
Credit: Icon Sport

Despite going 2-0 up and then falling back to 1-1 in the space of two minutes after Osimhen's goal was canceled due to the foul in the box just before the goal move, the team remained resolute and kept their heads up which gave them the confidence to perform well during the penalty shootout.

If they can keep up this performance in the final, irrespective of who they meet, Super Eagles will have the upper hand to win the title considering they've only conceded twice so far in the tournament.

Kelechi Iheanacho shines for Nigeria

At some point, it looked like Kelechi Iheanacho won't make the team following a lingering injury which beset the Leicester man. He was one of the last players to join the squad and had not featured at all for Nigeria in Ivory Coast.

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 Credit: Icon Sport

But just when the team needed players who can deliver, Peseiro called on Iheanacho's services in extra-time. He would go on to score the winning penalty for the Super Eagles to the delight of many Nigerians.

The 27-year-old has been a shining light for Nigeria whenever he's called upon. He has shown consistency more than any Super Eagle and has scored crucial goals for the team with his latest being his most important since he made his international debut.

Jose Peseiro got his substitutions right

The coach saw the imbalance in the team after the first-half and reacted the best way possible by removing Alex Iwobi and Moses Simon for Yusuf Alhassan and Samuel Chukwueze.

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Credit: Icon Sport

Just four minutes after the duo were introduced, Nigeria found the opening goal because they started to play well with control in the midfield.

During the extra-time, Peseiro made four more changes, bringing on Joe Aribo, Iheanacho, Terem Moffi, and Kenneth Omeruo. Three of these players went on to score for Nigeria during the penalty shootout, proving just how clutch the Portuguese was in his choice of substitutes.

Next up for Nigeria

Having booked their place in the 2023 AFCON finals, the Super Eagles of Nigeria will take on the winner between Ivory Coast/DR Congo.

The final match will take place on 11 February where Nigeria will look to reign supreme and bring home their fourth AFCON trophy.

This article was most recently revised and updated 2 weeks ago

Joseph is a graduate engineer turned sports writer, he has covered lots of sports stories, match previews and predictions across various leagues on the planet.