Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Nigeria Wins Africa Cup, Breaking 19-Year Drought
Nigeria today broke a 19-year record of futility in African soccer, winning the Cup of Nations in South Africa by defeating Burkina Faso 1-0 in the final.
The victory completed three weeks of competition in which the Super Eagles rose from a sluggish start in the group stage to triumph over tournament favorites Cote d’Ivoire in the quarter-finals, and Mali in the semi-final.
In today’s pulsating finale over their fellow West Africans, Nigeria signaled early and often its intention to take the trophy to Abuja, launching wave after wave of attacks in the first half.
The only goal of the match came in the 40th minute when domestic international Sunday Mba completed a sublime possession for Nigeria amidst heavy Burkinabe defending by slamming home from mid-air.
Nigeria was without its influential striker, Emmanuel Emenike, the tournament’s leading scorer who picked up an injury in the semi-final. His job fell to Ikechukwu Uke, Nigeria’s leading scorer in the qualifiers, but he did not make his usual impact, and was substituted in the 53rd minute by the pacy Ahmed Musa.
As Nigeria piled on the pressure for an insurance goal and the Burkinabes prospected for an equalizer, Nigeria in the 66th minute replaced injured defender Elderson Echiejile with Juwon Oshaniwa. In the 88th, Nigeria coach Stephen sent into battle team captain Keshi Yobo for Sunday Mba, as he sought to erect an impregnable wall in the defence and protect the lone goal.
It was enough. Despite Nigeria missing several opportunities to wrap up the game at the offensive end, the defence, which had conceded only four goals throughout the tournament, rose to the occasion, repulsing every missile and trick.
When the added four minutes of added time were over, the referee’s whistle was drowned out by a thunderous and spontaneous Nigeria roar of ecstasy all over the continent. The Super Eagles are back, and the party, in abeyance since Nigeria last took home the trophy in 1994, was on.
With the victory, Keshi became the second man to win the cup as coach and player; the first was Egyptian Mahmoud Al Gohari.
Five Nigerians picked up yellow cards in today’s gritty contest. Five: Emenike, Mikel Obi, Vincent Enyeama, Efe Ambrose and Victor Moses were also named by CAF to the Tournament XI.
Burkina Faso’s Pitropia was named the tournament’s best player, but Emenike, despite not playing in the final, was awarded the Golden Ball for the highest scorer.