Battle of Eagles and Stallions

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Keshi Celebrating against Mali
Keshi Celebrating against Mali

Super Eagles of Nigeria fights to win the Africa Cup of Nations championship for a third time in history but the Stallions of Burkina Faso, a debutant finalist is also eyeing the cup in this year’s final scheduled for February 10, in South Africa

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Feb. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THEY were not the favourites when the African Cup of Nations, Afcon, started on January 19, but the final match will be between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Stallions of Burkina Faso, February 10. In this year’s final match, Nigeria will be seeking to win the cup for a third time, while Burkina Faso is debuting as the finalist for the first time since the beginning of the continental tournament and also expects to emerge the champion.

Super Eagles Celebrating their win over Mali
Super Eagles Celebrating their win over Mali

The Super Eagles earned its ticket to the final by thrashing the Eagles of Mali 4-1 in the semi-final, while the Stallions reached their first final after beating favourites Black Stars of Ghana 3-2 on penalties. It was a pulsating semi-final match, which ended 1-1 after extra time. The feat of the Super Eagles brings it back to the continental showpiece final after 13 years. Nigeria’s national team last featured in an Afcon final in 2000 when it lost to Cameroon in Lagos. Many football analysts claimed that the Nigerian match against Mali was the most impressive and comprehensive performance of the Super Eagles in the tournament so far.

Sunday Oliseh, former Super Eagles captain, said the performance of the Nigerian team against Mali was an indication that local coaches were the best for African countries. He praised Stephen Keshi, the coach of the team, and the home-based Super Eagles players for shrugging off all the pressures and prejudices and emerging victorious against the determined Malian team.

Some analysts said the Super Eagles was beginning to display again the type of football that made them one of the powerhouses in African football over the previous decade. Others believe that Nigerian culture was back and that Nigerians should give credit to Keshi, pray and have faith in the current Super Eagles to win the title.

After the semi-final match, Keshi dedicated the victory to all Nigerians. He said Nigeria deserved to play in the final of Afcon after a long absence at the final of the continental football fiesta. “I, on behalf of the entire team, dedicate the victory to all Nigerians. Nigeria has missed playing in the final of the Nations Cup since the Ghana/Nigeria 2000 Nations Cup. For so long, the best we have played in the tournament is in the third place. My job is to put a smile on the faces of all Nigerians,” he said.

Keshi is now one step away from becoming the second man in the history of the tournament to win the Afcon cup as a player and a coach. The only person, who has achieved that feat was Egyptian Mahmoud El-Gohary, who won it in 1959 and 1998.

Meanwhile, the Economic Community of the West African States, ECOWAS, has congratulated the region’s national teams for their sterling performances at the continental tournament in South Africa. A goodwill message signed by Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, president of ECOWAS commission, said the region was happy to have seven out of its eight representatives in the quarter-finals of the championship.

Ouedraogo said: “Teams ECOWAS bear eloquent testimony to the region’s reputation as the powerhouse of African football. The community and its more than 300 million citizens are solidly behind them. More importantly, they should ensure that the coveted continental trophy comes to the region by the end of the tournament on 10 February, 2013.”

As the continent awaits the ultimate winner of the most coveted trophy in Africa, football lovers are rooting for a good match to end the three-week tournament. Before the final match, Ghana and Mali will slug it out in the third place match.

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