Stanley Nwabali vs Ronwen Williams: PSL’s best goalkeepers dominate AFCON 2024

The just-ended Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024) in the Ivory Coast had many highlights that have made the tournament one of the best in recent history.

There were lots of goals, many of which were so elegant that they caused the fans to stand up on their feet in celebration.

There was also drama, with the on-field altercations, square-offs on the touchlines, red cards and post-match scuffles also having their moment.

But while not many attackers shone at the AFCON, it was the excellence of goalkeepers at the tournament that really took centre stage.

Stanley Nwabali vs Ronwen Williams at AFCON 2024

Nigeria and South Africa were both very good in the tournament, and their defensive records were the best at AFCON 2024.

Although Nwabali was uncapped in a competitive game before making his AFCON 2024 debut for the Super Eagles, he has so far exceeded all expectations.

The 27-year-old conceded four goals all tournament, two of which came in the final against Ivory Coast, while keeping four clean sheets in the seven matches he played in the AFCON.

His aerial command and organisation at the back have also been impeccable.

Nigeria players transfer news Stanley Nwabali AFCON 2024
Photo by Icon Sport

For a new goalkeeper in the team, Nwabali has fit in seamlessly and seems certain to keep his place as Nigeria’s first-choice goalkeeper even after the tournament.

But for those who have followed his career in the South African topflight, Nwabali’s performances come as no surprise. He has played 15 league matches this season for Chippa United, keeping seven clean sheets.

Williams, on the other hand, is a more experienced campaigner with South Africa, having played over 30 matches for his country.

The 32-year-old arrived at the AFCON in great shape after helping Mamelodi Sundowns to win the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and the maiden edition of the African Football League since his arrival from SuperSport United.

For Bafana Bafana, he has also been a reliable presence, which is why head coach Hugo Broos maintained him as the skipper of the team. Williams remained a key figure at the AFCON, leading by example.

Just like Nwabali, the Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper also kept five clean sheets in seven matches – the most at AFCON 2024 – and was in imperious form during their penalty shootout victory over Cape Verde in the quarter-finals.

Williams incredibly saved four penalties in the shootout, becoming the first goalkeeper to do so in an AFCON shootout. He saved two more in the third-place playoff against DR Congo as Bafana Bafana won bronze.

Race to AFCON 2024 Golden Glove

Meanwhile, Nwabali and Williams were in a straight battle for the AFCON 2024 Golden Glove award. Both goalkeepers were clearly ahead of the others in the tournament.

But despite the semi-final game between Nigeria and South Africa ending in favour of the Super Eagles, Williams was adjudged winner of the Golden Glove at AFCON 2024.

The Bafana Bafana shot-stopper beat Nwabali to the award.

The bottom line, though, is that both goalkeepers have advertised the PSL very well in this year’s AFCON and will be remembered for their impressive performances at the tournament.

Don't expect Nwabali to stay at Chippa United much longer, though.

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Emmanuel Ayamga

Emmanuel Ayamga is an African sports writer, with bylines on DW, Al Jazeera, World Soccer Magazine and These Football Times.