Written By Onyeka Daniel
This year’s AFCON tournament is finally drawing to conclusion with the third place and the Final left only to play. For South Africa, it has been a memorable tournament as the Bafana Bafana made it to the semi-finals before losing to Nigeria on penalties after ending ending the match 1-1 in normal time plus extra time.
Despite the loss, they will be hoping to clinch a third place finish at the tournament, which will definitely be a great achievement for a team that wasn’t expected to make it this far in the tournament, especially after losing their opening match to Mali.
Regardless of what happens here, they have produced their best AFCON performance since finishing third back in 2000, which also came after losing to the Super Eagles in the semi-finals. The Bafana Bafana will face DR Congo who lost the second semifinal to the host, Ivory Coast.
For Supersport United defender, Siyanda Zulu, the team has already exceeded their expectations by getting to the semi-finals, but the team will also like to take one more step to clinch a third place finish against DR Congo.
The 32yrs old made this known in a pre-match conference ahead of their third place clash at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny stadium in Abidjan on Saturday. “After losing the Semi-final on penalties, how much are you guys motivated to make it tomorrow and at least, make it to the podium”? he was asked.
“Good morning everyone, our own goal as a team, we wanted to go as far as we could”, he started. “We know very well of our qualities as a team, that’s something that we had to prove to ourselves, and especially for the coach (Hugo Broos), who is one person who has always believed in us as a team, so to go as far as we could was the main objective”.
“And to reach the semi-final is a dream for us as a team, to show that we have done incredibly well preparing for the tournament. “Yes, we wanted to take it home, it was a dream for us and we managed to reach the semi-final, which was a massive step for us as a team, noting where we’re coming from in past few years, so we’re extremely happy with the progress of the team, of us as South Africans.
“And the game tomorrow is going to be very special for us as we continue with the dream, we really never thought that we could afford to be in this position at this tournament” he concluded.
Five Serie A players could be in line to feature in the Africa Cup of Nations final between Nigeria and Ivory Coast on Sunday, including Napoli’s leading goalscorer Victor Osimhen and Roma defender, Evan Ndicka.
While Ivory Coast hold the home advantage, Nigeria remains the favourite to lift the trophy at the end of the weekend. Nigeria rose to a 1-0 victory when the two teams met in the Group Stages in January. Up to five Serie A representatives could take to the field on Sunday, three for Nigeria and two for Ivory Coast.
Osimhen of Napoli, who has scored once and provided two assists from his six appearances for Nigeria in the competition thus far. Even more productive in front of goal has been Atalanta forward Ademola Lookman. The South-London born attacker has notched three goals and an assist for the Super Eagles.
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Milan’s summer signing Samuel Chukwueze could also make an appearance in the final. He has been called upon as a starter in two matches, and has appeared off the bench on a further three occasions in the tournament so far. For Ivory Coast, Evan Ndicka is expected to start at centre-back as he has done in every game so far.
The Roma defender has helped his nation concede just three goals in their last four matches. Finally, there could also be an opportunity for Fiorentina attacker Christian Kouame, who has been in and out of the Ivory Coast side since the beginning of the tournament. He has three starts to his name thus far, including the final two Group Stage matches and the quarter-final against Mali.
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