South Africa Earn Third Place Finish at AFCON

South Africa beat DR Congo 6-5 in a penalty shootout to claim third place at the Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday. Goalkeeper Ronwen Williams was the hero of the match for the South Africans, saving two crucial two penalties to put his team in front. 

South Africa and DR Congo clashed at the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Abidjan after losing to Nigeria and hosts Ivory Coast respectively in the competition’s semi-finals. As expected the match was a highly defensive affair, with neither team able to break the 0-0 deadlock.

The shootout didn’t start well for South Africa after Teboho Mokoena hit the post with the team’s first spot kick. Samuel Moutoussamy then scored for DR Congo to put DR Congo one goal ahead.

South Africa during the TotalEnergies Caf Africa Cup of Nations
IMAGO / Shengolpixs

The next three penalties were scored by both teams. Zakhele Lepasa successfully converted South Africa’s fifth spot kick but Chancel Mbemba had the chance to win the shoot-out for DR Congo. Unfortunately he couldn’t convert, as Williams sprung into action pulling off a crucial save to keep the penalty shoot out going.

With the shoot-out now in sudden death, the pressure was suddenly back on DR Congo. South Africa continued to make their penalties but Meschack Elia faltered, ending the match in favor of South Africa. . 

It was the second occasion that Williams had been able to pull out a victory for his team in penalties at AFCON this year. The other occasion came against Cape Verde in the quarter-finals. 

Even though South Africa fell just short of the final, they had a successful campaign, topping their group and taking third place. DR Congo also performed higher than their pre-tournament expectations, making it all the way to the final four.

Nigeria Meets Ivory Coast in AFCON Final

The 2024 Africa Cup of Nations champion will come to a conclusion on Sunday, when Nigeria and Ivory Coast meet at the Olympic Stadium of Ebimpe in Abidjan.

Nigeria will be attempting to win their fourth continental crown while Ivory Coast are looking to add to their wins in 1992 and 2015. 

This will be the second time they meet at this year’s tournament. Ivory Coast suffered their first-ever home defeat to Nigeria earlier on in the group stage of the competition, 1-0.

Hosts Ivory Coast are the first nation to reach the final since Egypt in 2006. The last five out of six hosts to have played in the AFCON final have ended up winning the trophy. The only exception was Nigeria back in 2000. 

Nigeria have had a clear path to the finals are the highest-ranked of the finalists, rated sixth in Africa and 42nd in the world. Ivory Coast is ranked eighth in Africa and 49th in the world. 

The Nigerian team hasn’t won the title since back in 2013, but had a great lead up to the final. They first flew through the group stage by earning seven points and then made a run of four straight clean sheets, beating Cameroon, Angola and South Africa in the knockout stages.

Ivory Coast had a more challenging run to the finals, squeezing through knockouts with wins over Senegal and Mali before beating DR Congo in the last four. They barely even made it into the knockout stage, only qualifying as one of the top four fourth place teams.

The match will likely come down to whether Ivory Coast can get past the stellar back line of Nigeria. Marshaled by former Watford center-back William Troost-Ekong, the team has only conceded just two goals in six games, while scoring seven.

Only one of those goals have come from Napoli striker Victor Osimhen, the reigning African Footballer of the Year. He has however had 24 chances, which isn’t very like the superstar to not convert. The final could very well be the occasion Osimhen is looking for to come good. 

Expect Nigeria to have the advantage going into the Final but anything could happen with the home crowd supporting Ivory Coast. This has been one of the most unpredictable AFCON tournaments in history and it wouldn’t be surprising if the final was full of drama as well.