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Friday, June 14, 2024

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    Captain Ronwen champions Bafana one step closer to glory!

    All roads led to the nail-biter encounter that saw Bafana Bafana take on a confident Cape Verde on Saturday night. The quarrelsome quarter final took place at the Stade de Yamoussoukro in Ivory Coast. An eerie feeling eloped in the hearts of supporters as many wondered, which country would book their place into the semi finals of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON)?

    Both teams were evenly matched on paper, but Bafana Bafana entered the game commanding respect from their opponents after a famous round of 16 win over the powerhouse Morocco. Cape Verde on the other hand, were not to be taken lightly, as they performed well above expectations throughout the tournament. They managed to achieve a group stage victory against Ghana and a draw against Egypt, which cemented them as first place in Group B.

    The opening 45 minutes captivated the nature of the game. It was an intense first half, with both teams creating equal opportunities. A shot from outside the box from Bafana midfielder, Teboho Mokoena, was the only shot on target in the first half. Congolese referee, Ndala Ngambo blew the whistle to conclude a stalemate first half without any controversial decisions made on his part.

    Things picked up after the second half got under way, with action packed football that saw the game live up to its billing. Both teams were eager to have the first say in the tie, which saw the game open up to an end to end affair.

    The Blue Sharks put on a dominant attacking display, but failed to add the finishing touch to break the resilient Bafana defense. With all the opportunities they wasted throughout the second half, Cape Verde architected their downfall.

    Bafana captain and goalkeeper, Ronwen Williams rose to the occasion at the death of the game, with a save so remarkable it restored the hopes of a nation. At the 92nd minute mark, with only 3 minutes left till the final whistle, Cape Verdian marksmen Gilson Tavares found himself one on one with the goalkeeper. A hard driven shot which seemed to be the dagger in the hearts of hopeful South Africans, was somehow turned into a moment of faith by Williams. The outstretched gloves of the Bafana goalkeeper met the shot with just as much ferocity, causing the ball to ricochet into the crossbar and back to safety.

    Not all heroes wear capes, but if superman was in that stadium, his name was Ronwen Williams.

    Bafana coach Hugo Broos made changes at the conclusion of the 2nd Half, with hopes to introduce fresh legs for the last half an hour of the game. The two teams battled hard over the period of extra time, but once again there was nothing separating the two sides. Extra time was a test none of the teams had faced thus far in the tournament, let alone a penalty shootout. However this was the last possible way for either of the teams to emerge as victors and march on to the semi finals.

    Bafana players, coaching staff and supporters mercilessly prayed to the heavens, and down came superman with gloves coated in gold. Williams refused to back down, he picked up from where he left off, saving four out of five penalties! He authored his story, with history being written as he became the first keeper ever to save four penalties in an AFCON tournament shootout. He also equaled the all-time record for penalty saves in a shootout, previously held by 1986 West Germany goalkeeper, Harald Schumacher.

    Here’s what fans on X had to say about Ronwen’s historic performance:

    @Thando_Thabethe posted, “A NATIONAL HERO!!!!!!!!!! Ronwen Williams.”

    @moflavadj posted, “Give Ronwen the country!!!! Give him everything!!!”

    @casspernyovest posted, “Tonight, you wrote your name in the history books and in our hearts !!! Legend!! First time in 15 years!!! We are going to the CAF semi finals cause of this man!!! Ronwen Williams!!! Thank you!!”

    This heroic performance proved to be the pinnacle of goalkeeping. Coach Hugo Broos’ charges are now heading to the semi-final, marking the end of a 24 year drought. South Africa will feature in the AFCON semi finals for the first time since 2000. They are set to face the Super Eagles, Nigeria on Wednesday night at the Stade de la Paix in Ivory Coast. Kick off is at 19:00 CAT, and it is anticipated to be another battle where Bafana will have to leave it all on the line.

    Led by a captain with character such as Ronwen Williams, Bafana Bafana enter the game with pride and confidence. The country backs Broos’ men and feels what they felt 24 years ago in this Bafana team, belief.

    Having hunted down the Lions of Morocco, fished out the Sharks of Cape Verde, now there is one more task; ground the flight of the Super Eagles.

    Main image: The Citizen

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