Fairy tale final

Burkina Faso players celebrating.
Burkina Faso players celebrating.

DURBAN – Rank outsiders Burkina Faso will face Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations final after a 3-2 penalty shootout win over Ghana at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit tonight.

Ghana’s Udinese midfielder Emmanuel Agyeman Badu had his effort saved by Daouda Diakite after earlier misses by teammates Isaac Vorsah and Emmanuel Clottey.

Bakary Kone, Henri Traore and Aristide Bance converted their chances to continue the fairy-tale run of a team that had turned up in South Africa with the modest ambition of ending a 17-match winless Nations Cup run. Now they find themselves meeting Nigeria, 4-1 winners over Mali earlier, for a shot at becoming kings of Africa.

The spot-kick climax was called for after the two teams were inseparable at 1-1 in a thrilling semifinal, with Bance’s second-half goal cancelling out Mubarak Wakaso’s early penalty.

The Burkinabe were deserved winners after almost coming unstuck by a series of strange decisions against them by Tunisian referee Slim Jdidi.

Chief among them was a legitimate penalty claim turned down, and a goal disallowed.

Jdidi wrongly waved away claims for an early spot-kick when John Boye barged into Jonathan Pitroipa, knocking his Rennes teammate unceremoniously to the much maligned Mbombela Stadium turf.

But on 13 minutes the referee had no hesitation in giving Ghana a penalty after an innocuous tangle involving Mady Panandetiguiri and Christian Atsu. Wakaso stepped up to convert past Daouda Diakite, for his fourth goal of the competition.

Meanwhile Nigeria were in irresistible form against Mali in their 4-1 win in Durban.

The Super Eagles were the dominant force during the first half and went into the break with a healthy advantage thanks to three unanswered goals.

Having missed a couple of chances during the opening exchanges, the Nigerians broke the deadlock with 25 minutes played.

Chelsea’s Victor Moses worked himself some space out on the right wing to send over a cross for Elderson Echiejile, who stooped to head the ball into the net.

Their lead was then doubled five minutes later when Brown Ideye managed to bundle the ball over the line following a through pass by Emmanuel Emenike.

Spartak Moscow’s Emenike played a major role in his nation’s third goal one minute before the break when his free kick deflected into the net off former Liverpool midfielder Mohamed Sissoko.

Despite their winning margin, Nigeria continued to attack after the restart and Mali goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa was beaten for a fourth time on the hour mark. Just moments after he had replaced Moses, Musa Ahmed broke the offside trap to score with a low effort.

The same player thought he had scored again two minutes later, but his goal was ruled out for offside.

As Nigeria looked to protect what they had, Mali were able to claim a consolation in the 75th minute when Cheick Diarra capitalised on hesitation in the defence to drill the ball in from 15 yards out.†

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