‘Against Stanley, you’re finished’: Nwabali explains secrets to AFCON penalty heroics

Super Eagles and current Chippa United goaltender Stanley Nwabali has relive some of the historic moments witnessed at the last Africa Cup of Nations held in Ivory Coast, specifically focused on his semi-final heroics against South Africa – the country where he currently plies his trade. 

The former Lobi Stars player also made his opinions known about Ronwen Williams, who eventually emerged as the best goalkeeper of the tournament.

Nwabali was at the heart of the semi-final story, where he brilliantly made penalty saves and cost Hugo Broos’ men a place in the final with his performance earning him a Man of the Match award in that game. Bafana Bafana lost to the Super Eagles of Nigeria on penalties after it had ended in a 1-1 draw within 120 minutes.

Stanley Nwabali: Secrets of AFCON penalty heroics explained
Photo by Icon Sport

Nigeria edged past South Africa to book another final spot

In a game that went the distance in the city of Bouake and caused a lot of tense moments for the supporters of both countries, the Chippa United stopper saved two penalty kicks from Teboho Mokoena and Evidence Makgopa, assuring Nigeria of a place in the final. The Super Eagles would eventually lose to the hosts Ivory Coast to miss out on a fourth continental  title.  

As the game headed for shootouts, South Africa were favorites as they had emerged winners via a shootout win against Cape Verde Islands in the previous round. In that game, goalkeeper Ronwen Williams had saved four spot-kicks.

But Nwabali stated that he was confident that his team would go through should the match go to penalties. He also claimed that he saw the Bafana players looking ‘scared’ whenever they were ready to take their spot kicks and he wasn’t surprised by Mokoena and Makgopa’s misses.

Stanley Nwabali: Secrets of AFCON penalty heroics explained
Photo by Icon Sport

‘In a shootout with me, you're finished’ – Stanley Nwabali

In a recent exclusive chat with South African media outfit FARPost, Nwabali sighted how the national team coaches had predicted a win in the shootout.

“When we went to penalty shootouts against South Africa, my coaches said Nigeria were going to win because they know me.

“People didn’t know me. Only a few teams in South Africa knew that when you go to penalty shootouts against Stanley, it’s gone. You’re finished; just forget about the game. You must give me the man of the match because I will save a lot.

“A lot of Bafana Bafana guys didn’t know me. But maybe they might have seen the video analysis or asked questions back in South Africa,” said the Chilli Boys stopper. 

“If you look at the eyes of the Bafana Bafana players, they looked scared. If you watched the game and you looked at their eyes when taking a penalty against me, they looked scared.

“So, when you’re not confident enough to stand, I know you’re going to fumble in the penalty. I was not surprised by Mokoena’s miss, and I was not surprised by Makgopa’s miss.

“So, these teams like Polokwane, Sekhukhune, Stellenbosch, they know that if you go to penalties with me, it’s finished. I’m not praising myself, I always want to keep quiet because I know what I can do.”

Stanley Nwabali: Secrets of AFCON penalty heroics explained
Photo by Icon Sport

Stanley Nwabali: ‘No comparison' with Ronwen Williams

The Super Eagles goalkeeper praised his South African counterpart Williams for his abilities to also make saves during penalty shootouts, but also rejected the need for comparisons. 

“So, when we went to penalties walking with Williams to the goalpost, I just said to myself, ‘This is the end of the road for you guys, sorry my friend.’

“Everyone thought Williams would save against Nigeria. Even the Nigerians were scared. You saw after a loss against Nigeria, he succeeded again against DR Congo. 

“Williams is good on penalties, but I’m not comparing him with myself because I know what I can do. I’m only talking about penalties, when you go to penalties with me, I don’t think I’m going to lose,” Nwabali said.

Avatar photo
Rotimi Akindele

Rotimi Akindele is a Sports Journalist with almost two decades' experience. He is a TV and radio host, commentator and writer who has covered major sporting events across the globe. Akindele's sports content has been listened to and read by a global audience. He is a well-known figure within Nigeria and the African football scene.