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South African keeper Williams, the penalty shootouts hero

South African keeper Williams, the penalty shootouts hero
South Africa's goalkeeper Ronwen Williams saves a penalty from Cape Verde's Laros Duarte during 2023 AFCON quaters match on Feb. 03, 2024.   -  
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Themba Hadebe/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

Ivory Coast

South Africa goalkeeper Ronwen Williams says preparation was key to his saving four of the five penalties he faced in a shootout to help the Bafana Bafana reach the Africa Cup of Nations semifinals.

Williams’ saves against Cape Verde in their quarterfinal match on Saturday (Feb. 03) were unprecedented – no other goalkeeper had saved so many in this part of a penalty shootout at the Africa Cup before.

The South Africa captain praised the team's analysts after his man-of-the-match performance, which had included a late save against Gilson Benchimol to keep his team in the game.

Williams then saved Cape Verde’s first three penalties from Cape Verde’s Bebé, Willy Semedo and Laros Duarte, before following up on the fifth to deny Patrick Andrade. That sent South Africa to the semifinals with a 2-1 win on penalties. The match in Yamoussoukro had ended scoreless after extra time.

“It’s not me,” Williams said. “I give credit to the analysts and the goalkeeper coach as well. They sent me so many clips, you know, and my phone is full of penalty clips ... They made my job 50% easier because I had an idea where most of the players were going.”

The Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper also paid tribute to his own teammates for getting to the shootout after extra time.

“The desire we had as a team tonight to fight for 120-plus minutes – that’s what matters to me. You know, to see the brotherhood out there, to fight, to keep going, that matters to me, that’s what’s more important,” Williams said of his man-of-the-match award. “So I will receive this trophy on behalf of all the players, the technical team, the staff, everyone that’s been on this journey with us.”

South Africa coach Hugo Broos also credited the team’s preparations.

“It’s not lucky, because we have a very good camp today. If you can (save) four penalties, this is not luck anymore. You can take one, but four – this is not luck anymore,” Broos said. “And he (Williams) did not only that. He saved us two minutes before the end with the player alone in front of him. So yes, he was man of the match.”

South Africa, which is bidding for its second title after winning in 1996, next faces three-time champion Nigeria in Bouaké in Wednesday’s semifinals. The winner will face either host nation Ivory Coast or Congo in the final in Abidjan on Sunday (Feb. 11).

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