2013 AFCON Final
Nigeria v Burkina Faso
National Stadium, Johannesburg
For both these teams, the qualification games they played in order to progress to the 2013 AFCON Finals must seem a lifetime away. Nigeria started their journey back in February 2012, when they played out a 0-0 with Rwanda in Kigali in the First-Leg of their First Round game. In June 2012 in the Second-Leg, goals from Ikechukwu Uche and Ahmed Musa saw The Super Eagles through 2-0 on aggregate. In September 2012, Nigeria travelled to Liberia, where the First-Leg game finished 2-2. The Second-Leg was a pretty comfortbale affair with Nigeria winning 6-1 with goals from Efe Ambrose, Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses (2), John Obi Mikel and Ikechukwu Uche. This 8-3 aggregate win saw Nigeria through to the Finals in South Africa.
Burkina Faso entered qualification at the Second Round stage, as having been in the 2012 AFCON Finals, they were given a bye to this point. In September 2012, The Stallions travelled to the Central African Republic (CAR). The First-Leg fixture was lost 1-0 and it looked even worse when in the Second-Leg, CAR took a 2-0 aggregate advantage after seven minutes. Goals from Alain Traoré and Moumouni Dagano before half-time brought the aggregate score level at 2-2, but CAR still held the advantage knowing that this would be enough to see them go through on away-goals. With ninety six minutes on the clock, Alain Traoré scored a second to send The Stallions through 3-2 on aggregate. The reality was that Burkina Faso were seconds from not even qualifying for the Finals.
At the Finals Nigeria were drawn in Group C with Burkina Faso, Zambia and Ethiopia. Burkina Faso topped the group on goal difference from Nigeria, with both teams finishing on five points. In the Quarter-Finals, Nigeria saw off favourites Ivory Coast 2-1 and secured their place in the Final after a comprehensive 4-1 victory over Mali. Burkina Faso have done it the hard way with an extra-time 1-0 win over Togo and then a dramatic 3-2 penalty shoot-out win against Ghana.
Nigeria are the bookies favourites going into the game and they have gained confidence as the tournament has progressed. Their forwards, Ahmed Musa, Ideye Aide Brown, Emmanuel Emenike and Victor Moses have all looked impressive with midfielder John Obi Mikel pulling the strings for The Super Eagles. However, the AFCON cares nothing for the favourites tag and as Zambia showed in 2012, anything is possible. Burkina Faso too have quality though in Jonathan Pitroipa, Aristide Bancé and Alain Traoré. The head says Nigeria, the heart says Burkina Faso.