Super Eagles or Stallions?
It’s their first Afcon final, but they’re pure class
Burkina Faso’s guts and their will to win will see them lift the Africa Cup of Nations trophy at the National Stadium tonight.
The Stallions have been the most difficult side to beat because of these characteristics and the trophy is theirs if they take on Nigeria with the same mentality.
Paul Put’s team was destined to earn respect and recognition at some point – they hardly complained about the sandy Mbombela Stadium pitch where they were based.
The reason why they finished ahead of Nigeria in the group standings should be obvious.
“When we arrived in this competition the only person who believed in us was our coach,” Burkina Faso’s captain Charles Kaboré remarked midweek.
True to the Olympique Marseille midfielder’s comment, not many would claim to have picked them as favourites to contest the final. After all, Burkina Faso’s best run was a fourth-place finish 25 years ago when they hosted.
Nigeria rarely came under pressure from opponents at any stage of the tournament – but The Eagles will not have forgotten how the Burkinabé punched a hole in their defence to force a point in injury time during the group stages.
The Stallions played 240 minutes in their last two fixtures, but they still have players with hunger waiting on the sidelines.
Put benched the team’s established striker and captain Moumouni Dagano in favour of Bundesliga-based Aristide Bancé.
His aerial strength and ability to take shots at goal in tight situations should be a serious concern for the Nigerian rearguard.
It’s going to be 2-1 to Burkina Faso.
Burkina Faso at a glance
Coach Paul Put’s team is a group of fighters who play for each other.
Even the absence of striker Alain Traore is hardly noticed.
The team’s style is defined by their confidence on the ball and decisiveness when in possession.
Put also has the luxury of picking big target men between Aristide Bance and Moumouni Dagano.
When their key players are tightly marked, the Stallions resort to taking shots from a distance and this has never yielded results.
The Stallions prefer the 4-5-1 formation, which transforms into a 4-3-3 pattern when they attack.
They build from the back through Bakary Kone and Keba Paul Koulibally, who always take their time on the ball to locate their best players in midfield – Jonathan Pitroipa and Charles Kabore, who are capable of changing the game with their speed, skill and decision-making.