Nothing to lose for Stallions
Burkina Faso arrived in South Africa with few expectations, and coach Paul Put says they have already achieved their target, as they aim for their best finish in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament.
The west African side have played in eight editions of the continental spectacle, only once making it past the first round, when home support carried them to a fourth-place finish in the 1998 edition of the competition, held in Burkina Faso.
When the Stallions defeated Ethiopia 4-0 in their second Group C match in Nelspruit last week, it was the first time the landlocked nation had won an Afcon game since defeating Tunisia on penalties in a quarterfinal match back in 1998 – compiling a record 15 games without a win in the continental showpiece. They went on to finish top of their group.
“We had one motivation – we wanted to qualify for the next round, which had never happened (on foreign soil) for Burkina,” Put said ahead of their last-eight clash against Togo at Mbombela Stadium on Sunday.
“I think it’s the biggest achievement because the country hosted it one time and then they played a semifinal, but it was a long time ago.”
With little pressure to progress to the play-offs, Put said he had told his squad to make use of the opportunity and prove their worth.
“I told the players, ‘you have to write history. It’s the moment to write history. Maybe this chance will never happen again’.
“Because we are very close (as a unit) we had to have the mentality to believe that we could go further. I think it’s history for Burkina Faso.”