In a pulsating final played on Sunday, February 10, the Super Eagles of Nigeria defeated the Stallions of Burkina Faso 1-0 to win the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa
Sunday Mba’s lone spectacular strike in the 40th minute was enough to win Nigeria its third Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title in the 2013 final against the Stallions of Burkina Faso played on Sunday, February 10, at the Soccer City, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Mba, a player who plies his trade in the Nigeria Premier League, wore jersey number 19, and more interestingly ended the country’s 19-year wait for AFCON title. Nigeria last won the AFCON title on home soil in 1980 and 1994 in Tunisia. Against the odds, Coach Stephen Keshi also made history as he became the first Nigerian coach to lead the Super Eagles to the title. He also becomes the second man to win it both as a player and a coach, the first being the late Mahmoud El Gohary who led Egypt to the AFCON title in 1998.
The match kicked off at a frenetic pace with nerves showing on both sides as they battled for supremacy in possession and play. Although the Eagles looked the more settled as the first half progressed, they failed to capitalize on their dominant possession. The absence of striker Emmanuel Emenike due to injury was glaring as the Eagles were unable to convert the numerous chances they created, with returnee striker IK Uche and Brown Ideye, failing to make any visible impact. This was until the 40th minute when Mba struck a sweet volley into the far corner of the post from inside the Burkinabe box. Mba’s goal came from a determined run by the Warri Wolves/Enugu Rangers player after Victor Moses and Brown Ideye had failed to capitalise on gilt edged chances seconds earlier.
The second half continued like the first, with both teams trying to grab the match by the scruff of the neck at the midfield. Although the Stallions seem to have gained confidence from their bright start at the second, they were not able to create clear cut chances, like the Eagles. The efforts of their star players; Jonathan Pitroipa, whose unjust red card in the semi-final against Ghana was reversed and Aristides Bance were neutralized by the Eagles’ defence, which put up an excellent shift throughout the match.
Wilfried Sanou almost snatched a late equaliser for Burkina Faso, but Vincent Enyeama’s reflexes saved the day for Keshi and the Eagles. Ahmed Musa could have sealed the match with a second goal but fell embarrassingly inside the Burkinabe box after being put through on goal. The Eagles held on for the four minutes of added time to be crowned champions of Africa in the 2013 final watched by 85,000 fans.
“I am overjoyed at the stunning victory of the Super Eagles which has seen Nigeria emerge as the champions of the African Cup of Nations, 2013. Well done Patriots, you have done Nigeria proud. 2013 is obviously the year of Nigeria. We have emerged as a beacon of hope on the African continent by proving to Africa and the world that a strong Nigerian team put together and trained by a Nigerian coach can stand the test of time and successfully rise to the challenge of a most formidable opponent. The Nigerian spirit stands strong and steady as we march to the destination of greatness. I doff my fedora hat to this great squad that has brought laughter and happiness to our homes. Nigerians are grateful. We thank God. We thank you,” said President Goodluck Jonathan, in his congratulatory message to the team, who are billed to be hosted to a grand reception in Abuja on Tuesday, February 12.
With this victory, Nigeria would now represent Africa at the FIFA Confederations Cup slated for June in Brazil, where they would play against European and World champions Spain, Uruguay and Tahiti. Brazil, Japan, Mexico and Italy make the other group.