Continental glory remained elusive for Banyana Banyana once again after falling short in Accra, Ghana as the Super Falcons captured a ninth Africa Cup of Nations title on Saturday.
Both Lebohang Ramalepe and Linda Motlhalo missed their spot-kicks during the shootout after the full match and extra time failed to produce goals, as Nigeria won 4-3 on penalties.
But Nigeria should have settled the tie before extra time. The Super Falcons missed a spot-kick on 75 minutes.
Banyana veteran Noko Matlou, having just come on as a substitute, made a vain attack to kick the ball away, but only succeeded in directing it into her team’s penalty box – essentially gifting possession to Nigeria.
Kaylin Swart came off her line, but was too late to get the ball and only succeeded in upending the Super Falcons’ attacker.
From the spot-kick, Assisat Oshoala incredibly scuffed the ball wide of goal, to the delight of the South Africans.
While that was that most glaring chance of the game, both teams had other chances to get goals prior to the extended period and in extra time.
Oshoala had a penalty appeal turned away just before the break following a good run into the box.
Nigeria’s Francisca Ordega twisted and turned Banyana defenders, but her cross was too strong on 37 minutes, and she then shot over just after the break.
Swart also made two brilliant similar saves that saw her dive full on the ground to push the ball out, the first on 24 minutes and the other four minutes into extra time.
For Banyana, star player Thembi Kgatlana had opportunities too.
On 40 minutes, she received an Itumeleng Khune-esque long pass from Swart and beat a defender, but was too slow to take the advantage, and the defender recovered to clear.
The tournament’s star player weaved her magic to beat three Nigerian defenders on 97 minutes, but her shot was directly at goalkeeper Oluehi Tochukwu.
Nigeria’s number one then pulled off a fabulous safe to tip over a free kick by Mamello Makhabane.
And it was Tochukwu who was the toast of her team after the Super Falcons prevailed once more, for the third successive tournament.
While having to contend with being bridesmaids once more, Banyana will no doubt find consolation in the fact that they have qualified for their maiden World Cup appearance – to be hosted by France next year.