Africa: Afcon – Nigeria 1-1 [4-2 Pens] South Africa Ratings: Nwabali Gets Cake As Peseiro Proves Mettle

With his two penalty saves, Nwabali proved that the Eagles have finally found a goaltender that can be relied upon.

The tension was palpable, particularly as the game reached the penalty shootout, evoking memories of South Africa’s goalkeeper, Ronwen Williams, saving four out of five kicks against Cape Verde.

However, Nigerian fans need not have been concerned, as Stanley Nwabali, who plays for Chippa United in South Africa, saved two of Bafana Bafana’s four penalties, propelling the Super Eagles into their eighth AFCON final appearance.

All the Super Eagles players are heroes for going this far, but here are their ratings against South Africa:

Stanley Nwabali: 90 minutes [27, 8 caps]

Rating: 8.5/10

Nwabali continues to prove his doubters wrong on all fronts. From ‘he has not been tested’ to ‘it is the defence that is doing all the work’, the former Enyimba and Lobi Stars shot-stopper has become the goalkeeper the Super Eagles team was crying out for. Talking of his confidence, his awareness, his outspokenness, and his ability to come trumps in clutch time, Nwabali gets the cake for helping the Eagles into Sunday’s final.

Semi Ajayi: 90 minutes [30, 33 caps]

Rating: 7.5/10

Ajayi played almost faultlessly against South Africa. The West Brom defender won 10 of his 11 duels, as he helped keep the right flank sane as the South Africans threatened in the first half. His tackle on Themba Zwane in the 25th minute had to be timed perfectly, or else it would have been a penalty. Again, Ajayi played all the minutes of the game, as he has done in this AFCON tournament.

William Troost-Ekong: 90 minutes [30, 70 caps]

Rating: 8/10

Troost-Ekong has to be credited with nerves of steel. Though his penalty that gave Nigeria the lead seemed anxious, the one in the decisive shootout was as emphatic as it could be. The PAOK defender, with a heavily braced right leg, has been the defensive glue and experienced leader the Eagles have needed in Cote d’Ivoire.

Calvin Bassey: 90 minutes [24, 22 caps]

Rating: 7/10

Bassey had a tough game, which could be because of fatigue. The Fulham man was caught out of position sometimes, and his normally excellent ball control deserted him. His combination with Ola Aina was not the best, but he soldiered on and helped the Eagles triumph.

Ola Aina: 90 minutes [27, 39 caps]

Rating: 7/10

Aina also did not have the best of games, which culminated in his penalty miss. Though he provided some wonderful crosses for Osimhen to attack, he was not as effective at rampaging down the left flank as he has been on the right throughout the tournament.

Bright Osayi-Samuel: 80 minutes [26, 14 caps]

Rating: 6.5/10

Osayi-Samuel came into the team and played his heart out. The Fenerbahce man came into his own in the second half, and his pass for the chalked-off goal would have been the assist of the tournament. His composure on the ball and movement make him a significant part of this Super Eagle team.

Frank Onyeka: 90 minutes [26, 23 caps]

Rating: 7.5/10

Once again, Onyeka plugged all the holes, though it was difficult for some 20 minutes in the first half when the South Africans threatened to overwhelm him and Alex Iwobi. Nobody went past him, as he made three successful tackles and five interceptions. His interception of a cross by Khuliso Mudau in the 26th minute surely prevented a goal for South Africa.

Alex Iwobi: 90 minutes [27, 75 caps]

Rating: 6/10

Iwobi has played very well in a hybrid position, but against a fluid South African midfield, he was found wanting and had to be substituted in the second half. The Fulham forward made no tackles and was involved in just one duel, which he won.

Moses Simon: 90 minutes [28, 69 caps]

Rating: 6.5/10

Simon had some exciting moments, but he sometimes failed to make brilliant decisions when in the final third. His combination with Osayi-Samuel was not as fluid, and he failed to track back to help with defensive duties.

Ademola Lookman: 90 minutes [26, 18 caps]

Rating: 7/10

Lookman expended a lot of energy in pressing the South African back four, but he could not affect the game as much as he would have liked. He also missed the chance to make it two for Nigeria when he got on the end of a pass from Samuel Chukwueze, but could not find a way around Williams.

Victor Osimhen: 90 minutes [24, 34 caps]

Rating: 7.5/10

Again, Osimhen’s persistence and speed caused South Africa all kinds of problems, and it was not a surprise when he lured Mothobi Mvala into a reckless tackle that gave Nigeria the penalty in the second half. He could have done better with at least two crosses, from which he headed wide, but all-in-all, he continues to lead the line with selflessness and hunger.

Substitutes

Samuel Chukwueze: 27 minutes [24, 34 caps]

Rating: 6/10

The Eagles needed a dribbler to unlock the South Africans, and he played the role well, setting Osimhen up for the penalty foul and the pass to Lookman, which was not taken.

Alhassan Yusuf: 27 minutes [23, 4 caps]

Rating: 6/10

Yusuf replaced a passive Iwobi, but he was overly aggressive and gave away the penalty, which South Africa equalised. He settled down in extra time and covered up the grounds to ensure the Eagles could push for a winner.

Kelechi Iheanacho: 17 minutes [27, 50 caps]

Rating: 7/10

Iheanacho got his first minutes and had two shots on target. One was a free kick, and the other was the winning penalty.

Joe Aribo: 17 minutes [27, 32 caps]

Rating: 5/10

Aribo could not get into the game, but he played his part.

Kenneth Omeruo: 1 minute [30, 66 caps]

Rating: 6/10

The 2013 AFCON-winning defender came on at the death, and his penalty kick was the coolest in the Bouake cauldron.

Manager: Jose Peseiro [63, 23rd game as Eagles manager]

Rating:8/10

Peseiro showed he was a courageous manager with a plan. When penalty kicks dawned, he pulled out all his front five, and all his major calls were on point. He took off Iwobi when he was physically flagging, while Iheanacho and Omeruo’s inclusion at the death proved a master stroke.

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