Nigeria’s Super Eagles have secured their place in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) semi-finals after defeating South Africa 1-0 in Egypt on Wednesday night.
After conquering Cameroon in the Round of 16, the Super Eagles were faced with another tough test in South Africa
Coach Gernot Rohr made two changes to the team that defeated defending champions Cameroon in the Round of 16.
Ola Aina was replaced by fit-again full-back Jamilu Collins on the starting line-up, while Samuel Chukwueze got the nod ahead of fellow attacker Simon Moses.
The match at the Cairo International Stadium got off to a lively start with the two teams searching for an early goal, but they could not keep their shots on target in the opening stages of the encounter.
After missing some earlier chances, the Super Eagles went in front in the 27th minute when Chukwueze wriggled through the defence and fired at the second attempt past South Africa goalkeeper Ronwen Williams from close range to give Nigeria the lead.
South Africa tried to respond with a goal and the last chance of the first half went to them, but Lebogang Mothiba’s free-kick was blocked by the wall on the edge of the box.
The score was 1-0 to Nigeria at the interval thanks to Villarreal winger Chukwueze’s goal.
The Super Eagles had a couple of chances in the second half but they were let down by their finishing.
The profligacy of the Eagles was punished when
Bongani Zungu scored with a header from Percy Tau’s free-kick in the 71st minute.
The goal was initially flagged for offside but referee Rédouane Jiyed then consulted with Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and the goal was given to South Africa to make it 1-1 with 19 minutes left on the clock.
However, Bafana lost concentration in the closing stages of the game and they were punished by William Troost-Ekong.
An unmarked Troost-Ekong fired home second half substitute Moses Simon’s corner-kick in the 89th minute to seal Nigeria’s 2-1 victory over South Africa.
The Super Eagles will now take on the winner between Algeria and Ivory Coast in a semi-final clash on Sunday, while Bafana bowed out of the tournament.
Chukwueze was voted the man of the match for his wonderful display down the left flank for the Eagles.
Speaking about his goal after the match, Chukwueze said: “I was very very happy. It was an amazing thing.”
The Villareal winger said he received encouragement by senior players including Mikel Obi and Ahmed Musa before the match; both of him encouraged him to play his football without fear.
Chukwueze is one of 20 Nigerian footballers who are making their Nations Cup debut in the 2019 AFCON being hosted by Egypt.