AFCON 2024: How South African Ronwen Williams thwarted Cape Verde in the penalty shootout

The Bafana Bafana goalkeeper thwarted four penalty shots. And it wasn’t due to luck or chance. Let’s be realistic: it’s highly unlikely. But in Yamoussoukro, after a long and indecisive evening, Hlompho Kekana, the midfielder of the South African national football team, humorously but with great respect, suggested a new name for the position of finance minister in his country.

Ronwen Williams kept his goal intact during the 90 regulation minutes, and then during extra time. And then came the show during the penalty shootout. Bebe, Willy Semedo, Laros Duarte… The first three Cape Verdean shooters all failed to score against the South African goalkeeper.

They all shot to the left and all failed. Bryan Teixeira briefly kept hope alive by finally scoring for the Blue Sharks on their fourth attempt, while the South African shooters had just suffered two failures. But Ronwen Williams was in a state of grace on Saturday night. And Patrick Andrade, the fifth and last Cape Verdean shooter, saw the Bafana Bafana wall repel his attempt to the right and send South Africa into the semifinals.

Four penalty shots saved out of five, without hitting the crossbar and without shots off target, is an exceptional performance. In major football competitions (World Cup, Euro, Copa America…), it’s unprecedented. Statisticians cannot find a performance as exceptional as Williams’. If you save four penalty shots, it’s no longer luck.

You can save one, but four… it’s not luck. He didn’t just do that, he also saved us two minutes before the end of the first 90 minutes, when he was alone facing the Cape Verdean player,” said the coach to the press after the final whistle. Ronwen Williams, the hero of the night, made sure to associate the Bafana Bafana staff with this success. The goalkeeper of Mamelodi Sundowns stated that “all the credit goes to the analysts”.

“They prepared me. They retrieved so many videos. We studied the different clubs of the Cape Verdean players. I had worked hard too, we had practiced in training.

But it’s not me who should be congratulated, it’s the analysts. And the goalkeeper coach too. They gave me a lot of hints,” he explained. Stopping just one goal is too basic.

It wasn’t easy to find videos of certain players, of certain teams from all around the world. Big up to the analysts! Thank you for preparing all that. They did my job.

At least half of it. Because I knew roughly where each player was going to shoot,” Williams added. His head coach also praised the “fantastic work” of the video analysts. But Hugo Broos pays tribute to his last line of defense, who already had an excellent reputation in penalty and shootout exercises: “During penalty shootouts, you can tell a goalkeeper ‘he’s going to shoot to the right, he’s going to shoot to the left,’ and the opposite happens.

That’s penalty shootouts. (…) Ronwen had the information. But in the end, it’s up to him to decide at the moment.” Nigeria, the opponent of South Africa in the semi-finals (Wednesday, February 7 in Bouaké), knows what to expect if a penalty or a new penalty shootout should occur.

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