11 February 2013

Nigeria/Burkina Faso: Keshi's Bet On Sunday Mba Pays Off As Nigeria Claims Africa Cup of Nations

Johannesburg — The sartorial stakes have taken a downward turn. Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi wore green track suit bottoms, white trainers, a white polo shirt and a brown bib with the CAF logo. Burkina Faso coach Paul Put was in black track suit bottoms, white trainers, white polo shirt covered with a red CAF bib. Oh Hervé how I miss Le Touchline Look.

That they should dispense with the closing ceremony mullarkey. Singers, dancers, celebrating culture and fellowship is all very well and good, but what gets the crowd excited? Why fireworks, of course. They fair whooped and vuvuzelad the roof off the National Stadium when the sparkly stuff started up on high. Might even be cheaper than all the rump shaking and breast jiggling that goes on.

Belief is a mighty powerful thing. Before the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, the Nigeria coach, Stephen Keshi, was excoriated for ostracising veterans such as Obafemi Martins and Peter Odemwinge and drafting in unheard-of players such Godfrey Oboabona and Sunday Mba. On the eve of the final against Burkina Faso, Keshi told journalists: "I believe in this squad." Well, in fact, what else could he say? Scorer of the winning goal in the final? Sunday Mba.

There is such a thing as a game too far. Burkina Faso were plucky but the final was just one game too much. A victory in extra-time over Togo in the quarter-final was followed by another 120 minutes and a penalty shoot-out win over Ghana in the semi-final.

There was nothing left. You could see it. You could feel it. Oh, go on, let's be dramatic, it's the last review - You could taste their agony. Even the midfield general Charles Kaboré was unable to track back in the closing stages against Nigeria . Beaten they were but brave. So very, very brave.

That a surprise is good for the tournament. OK, so Nigeria were favourites going into the final against Burkina Faso . But only a brave man would have bet on them to contest it. No one saw Burkina Faso as their opponents.

The review's first two Cup of Nations in Ghana and Angola saw Egypt 's silky midfield patterns bewitch all comers. Gabon 2012 was a turn up for the books with Zambia's rave from beyond the grave and South Africa 2013 furnished us with some history: Keshi only the second man to win the title as a player and as a coach. Respect.

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