CAPTAIN Ronwen Williams saved four penalties to help South Africa reach the semi-finals of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations following a 0-0 draw against Cape Verde.
Bebe, Willy Semedo, Laros Duarte and Patrick Andrade were all denied in the shootout by the outstanding Williams, who also made a spectacular late save to tip Gilson Benchimol’s first-time strike against the woodwork and ensure the gruelling quarter-final entered extra time.
Cape Verde goalkeeper Vozinha made two exceptional saves in quick succession shortly after extra time began to deny Mihlali Mayambela and Teboho Mokoena.
South Africa will now have the chance to avenge their defeat by Nigeria on their last appearance in the Afcon semi-finals, when they were beaten 2-0 by the Super Eagles in 2000.
A moment which will perhaps be remembered as the save of the tournament was as close as either team came in normal time during a contest largely characterised by poor finishing.
Williams will undoubtedly be a contender for the Best Goalkeeper award once the tournament is over, and his fingertip save as he sprung into the air to keep out Benchimol’s effort by the slightest of margins was a remarkable reflex stop.
There was even better to come from the 32-year-old when he stopped Cape Verde’s first three penalties by diving to his right and thwarted Andrade by leaping in the opposite direction, having appeared to consult notes on a water bottle between each kick.
And with Williams in this form, it may take something special for Victor Osimhen and his team-mates to find a way past the 1996 champions, who will attempt to bridge a 24-place gap in Fifa’s rankings when they meet the three-time winners in Bouake on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a back-heel goal by Oumar Diakite in added time at the end of extra time gave hosts Ivory Coast a 2-1 win over Mali in Bouake on Saturday after a dramatic Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final.
Reduced to 10 men by a red card at the end of the first half, the Ivorians fell behind in the second half to a Nene Dorgeles goal only for Simon Adingra to equalise in the 90th minute.
The result marked another upward turn for the Ivory Coast in a roller coaster AFCON campaign in which they scraped into the knockout stage after a 4-0 hiding from Equatorial Guinea.
It was a heartbreaking outcome for Mali, who dominated for long periods and, despite missing a penalty, seemed set to maintain a record of never losing a Cup of Nations quarter-final.
Ivory Coast now return to Abidjan, where they will face the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday in the semi-finals, but Diakite is set to miss out after picking up a second yellow card while celebrating his winning goal.
This was the sixth meeting of the countries in the AFCON with the two-time champions Ivory Coast winning four and drawing one previously against rivals whose best showing was 1972 runners-up. – AFP.