What Nwabali said about facing Bafana in Nigeria vs South Africa AFCON clash…

It's nothing new for Stanley Nwabali to face the best South Africa have to offer, but his place in the Super Eagles squad was far from secure before AFCON 2024.

Nigeria’s quest for the fourth Africa Cup of Nations crown will be tested on Wednesday when the Super Eagles face Bafana Bafana of South Africa in a semi-final clash at the Stade de la Paix in Bouake.

Not many people gave the Super Eagles a chance at this year's edition, not just because of the unimpressive results prior to the tournament, but also due to the uncertainty about the goalkeeping situation.

Photo by Icon Sport

Super Eagles goalkeeping nightmare

Francis Uzoho, who had been the first choice, wasn’t in the best of form during the World Cup qualifiers and international friendlies.

Maduka Okoye, who was in goal at the 2021 edition in Cameroon, has been in and out of the squad since that tournament, where many blamed him for the goal scored by Tunisia that eliminated Nigeria in the Round of 16.

With matters reaching a head, Jose Peseiro started weighing up his options.

Apart from Uzoho, Peseiro called up Adeleye Adebayo, Adewale Adeyinka, Victor Sochima, and Leke Ojo as the search for a first-choice goalkeeper continued.

Even though Peseiro still stuck with Uzoho, it became apparent that trust was wearing thin.

Peseiro seeks out Nwabali

As the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations drew closer, Peseiro turned his sights to the South Africa Premier Soccer League (PSL), where a Nigerian goalkeeper, Nwabali, plays.

In fact, Peseiro travelled to South Africa and spent time at Chippa United watching and monitoring Nwabali as he tinkered with Nigeria’s provisional list for the tournament.

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It was clear he liked what he saw as Nwabali, alongside five other goalkeepers – Uzoho, Ojo, Adeleye, Christian Nwoke, Amas Obasogie, – were named in the 40-man provisional list.

Out of the five goalkeepers invited, Francis Uzoho, Leke Ojo, and Stanley Nwabali were the three who made the final list for the Ivory Coast.

Apparently, Nwabali did enough to convince Peseiro he was top-notch as he was named in Nigeria’s first game of the tournament against Equatorial Guinea, which ended 1-1.

Nigeria players transfer news Stanley Nwabali
Photo by Icon Sport

Since then, Nwabali has manned the posts in all of Nigeria’s games as the Super Eagles made it all the way to the semi-finals, conceding just one goal.

Nwabali a Super Eagles diamond in the rough

Nwabali has become the fans' favourite due to his calm demeanour on the pitch, smart saves, and how he commands his area – something that has been missing for a long time in that department.

As Nigeria face South Africa in the AFCON 2024 semi-finals, Nwabali will be up against players he knows very well, considering he plays in South Africa and the majority of the Bafana Bafana players also play in the PSL.

For Nwabali, it is extra motivation and a game he told afrik-foot.com he is ready for.

“This game is a game I am happy about. I am feeling happy, apart from being part of the team, I am happy for the progress in the competition so far,” Nwabali said.

“I am also happy to face Bafana Bafana if I am selected to play.

“Like you know, I play in South Africa and I have played against some of the players.

“It will be good to face them again.”

When quizzed about preparation for the game against South Africa, Nwabali said there is no special training as the team trains as they would for any other game.

“No, there is no special preparation for them (South Africa). We prepare how we prepare for all games,” the 27-year-old added.

“Like the coach said, every game is like a cup final, and we will give our best, as we always do, to ensure victory for Nigeria.”

Nigeria will face South Africa on Wednesday in a semi-final of the Africa Cup of Nations at the Stade de la Paix in Bouake for a spot in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations.

What Nwabali said about facing Bafana in Nigeria vs South Africa AFCON clash…
Andrew Randa

Andrew Randa is a seasoned Africa sports journalist, and a former Media Officer for Nigeria's U-20 national team. He is widely acknowledged as an authority on the NPFL and African football, Randa is esteemed for his expertise in football content creation. Furthermore, he holds the distinction of being Nigeria's foremost sports kit designer and a trailblazer in the realm of sports graphics in Nigeria.