As they did 24 years ago which has been their best since winning the trophy at home in 1996, the hard-fighting Bafana Bafana will have to contest for the third place position at the Africa Cup of Nations after losing the semi-finals to Nigeria.
In 2000 in Nigeria after losing to Nigeria in the semi-finals, they went on to beat Tunisia to win the third place.
For Nigeria, it is a renaissance as they had lost five of their previous six semifinals. Good for the Super Eagles but on Wednesday, they survived some nervous moments to book a place in Sunday’s decider against either hosts Cote d’Ivoire or the Democratic Republic of Congo, who meet later on Wednesday.
The Super Eagles have goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali to thank as he saved two penalties in the shootout.
William Troost-Ekong put Nigeria into the lead from the penalty spot midway through the second half, before South Africa earned a spot-kick of their own in the final minute of the 90 and it was converted by Teboho Mokoena.
South Africa lost defender Grant Kekana to a red card in extra time as Nigeria put them under constant pressure, and then lost their nerve too in the shootout as Nwabali saved from Mokoena and Evidence Makgopa.Nwabali plays his club football in South Africa at topflight side Chippa United and was a surprise pick for the tournament having only won a single cap prior to the start of 2024 in a 4-0 loss to Mexico nearly three years ago.
But he has been a revelation having only conceded two goals in his side’s six games and earned them a first final place since they lifted the Cup of Nations trophy in 2013.
South Africa will rue missed chances in the 90 minutes, not least in the dying seconds when right back Khuliso Mudau fired over the bar with the goal gaping, but must now settle for a place in the bronze-medal match on Saturday.
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