In the end there was to be no fairy tale victory for the second Africa Cup of Nations in succession. After Zambia shocked the Ivory Coast in last year’s edition of the tournament, there were many who were hoping that Burkina Faso could spring a similar surprise over a Nigeria side that were the clear favourites following their defeats of Didier Drogba’s Ivorians and then Mali, who would eventually defeat Ghana to finish in third place, in the last four.
However, it was not to be as Sunday Mba’s superbly executed strike five minutes before half-time proved to be the difference between the two sides at a packed-out and vociferous Soccer City in Johannesburg.
In truth, it was a richly deserved victory for Stephen Keshi’s Super Eagles, who were dominant throughout and could have added to their lead several times through the consistently brilliant Victor Moses and Ahmed Musa. However, despite Nigeria’s profligate finishing, the Burkinabe simply did not seem to have the quality or precision to get back into it and only produced one moment of alarm for the Nigerians throughout the entire 90 minutes, when a drilled Wilfred Sanou shot brought a finger-tip, but still routine, save from Victor Enyeama.
For Paul Pot’s gallant Burkina Faso, the final seemed to be one game too far for an exhausted set of players that had played 120 minutes in both the quarter-final and semi-final, as well as being shorn of their best and most creative player in Alain Traore through injury. Jonathan Pitroipa may have had his suspension overturned to take part in the showpiece but even his pace and trickery could not source an equaliser for the Stallions.
However, Pitroipa will still return to French club side Rennes having been named as the player of the tournament and his efforts in helping his country reach the final, particularly after counterpart Traore was ruled out, will never be forgotten.
Indeed, it should be remembered that before South Africa 2013, Burkina Faso had never won a game at the Africa Cup of Nations away from home soil, having only claimed successes and indeed gone beyond the group stage once before as hosts in 1998. Thus, Pot’s men have made history time and time again in South Africa and one hopes that their displays will help inspire a generation back home in Burkina Faso.
As for Nigeria, it has certainly been a long road since 1994 and their last Cup of Nations triumph. Coach Keshi took a brave step in leaving some illustrious names out of his squad for South Africa 2013, with the likes of Taye Taiwo, Obafemi Martins, Peter Odemwingie and Yakubu all left out.
However, his decision to select a number of locally-based players such as Mba has paid off hugely, while vitally, three of his most important foreign-based players – Victor Moses, John Obi Mikel and Emmanuel Emenike – brought their best form to the finals. This combination, allied with Keshi’s impressive man-management and tactical skills, made Nigeria worthy winners of South Africa 2013.
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