After seeing Victor Osimhen hold his abdomen only seconds into Wednesday’s crucial encounter, Nigerian supporters were likely shocked and horrified that he could not play. The Napoli star, nevertheless, felt well enough to keep playing and scored twice in the second half. After a string of close calls with his head, the African Player of the Year finally broke through the Bafana Bafana defense with a series of foot-based goals. Specifically, Mothobi Mvala, who could not handle Osimhen’s speed, clattered the striker, resulting in a blatant penalty. William Troost-Ekong, the captain, repeated his performance from the match against Ivory Coast by sliding his spot kick beneath Ronwen Williams, who was sprawled, to get the goal.

After Osimhen’s late tap-in seemed to have completed his solid performance, Bouake was rocked by an extraordinary amount of drama from a VAR review. Substitute Alhassan Yusuf’s reckless challenge resulted in the Napoli star’s disallowed shot and the subsequent penalty kick handed to South Africa. As expected, Teboho Mokoena set up some nerve-wracking final minutes for Nigeria, who hung on until the very end of the match to force overtime. In the end, penalties were necessary to separate the two teams, as South Africa’s Grant Kekana was sent off late in the game after yet another video assistant referee review. Stanley Nwabali shone in goal, while Super Eagles hero Kelechi Iheanacho was instrumental in the team’s success.

Despite coming dangerously close to missing the match, Osimhen played a pivotal part in Nigeria’s progression to the final and their triumph on Wednesday. The Napoli player overcame a near-injury scare and a lackluster first half to unleash a devastating second-half performance. His intensity and determination overwhelmed the South African defense, and all it took was a moment of brilliance from him to have a pivotal impact. Osimhen rose to the challenge despite his lackluster performance in the competition. However, the hero of the shootout, goalie Nwabali, was essential to Nigeria’s run to the AFCON final.

But Yusuf’s perplexing problem almost derailed Osimhen and Nigeria’s attempts. Until the end of regulation time, the midfielder from Antwerp, who came in for Alex Iwobi, faced few serious challenges. Even though the on-field authorities failed to see his reckless challenge from behind Tau, they showed no mercy on Yusuf upon rewatching the game. Before Mokoena’s penalty, Nigeria had been coasting along, scoring a second goal not long after the challenge. However, after the penalty, they fell into fear and anarchy. Ultimately, Yusuf was not penalized for his reckless tackle, which was almost a significant turning moment.