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No stopping Nigeria

Sunday Mbah (19) celebrates his winning goal.

Sunday Mbah (19) celebrates his winning goal.

JOHANNESBURG — Sunday Mba scored a magnificent winner as Nigeria won the Africa Cup of Nations for the third time today at Soccer City in South Africa.

The dominant Super Eagles made the breakthrough just before half-time when Mba clipped the ball over Mohamed Koffi and then volleyed into the far corner.

Burkina Faso almost equalised when Wilfried Sanou forced a fingertip save from goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.

Ahmed Musa slipped as he looked set to score and Victor Moses almost poked home as Nigeria eased to victory.

It was a win that was fully deserved as Nigeria comfortably beat a tired-looking Burkina Faso, who struggled to make an impact in their maiden final appearance.

And perhaps it was one game too many for the Burkinabe, who had failed to win a single game on foreign soil in the Nations Cup before this tournament but shocked many by going so far this time.

However, credit must go to Nigeria and their coach Stephen Keshi, who captained the Super Eagles when they last won the title in 1994 and becomes only the second man to lift the trophy as a player and as a coach after Egyptian Mahmoud El Gohary.

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has proved his critics wrong after his selection policy was widely questioned before the tournament

It is also the first time for 21 years that a black African coach has won the cup – Ivory Coast’s Yeo Martial was the last to do so in 1992.

After Nigeria and Burkina Faso played out a 1-1 draw in their group match early on in the competition, the Super Eagles had grown in stature and went into the game as favourites.

The Super Eagles, playing in their first final since losing to Cameroon on penalties in 2000, made the brighter start while nerves were on show from first-time finalists Burkina Faso and they looked even more unsettled by the pace and directness of Chelsea winger Moses.

While Nigeria assumed some measure of control, the Stallions were completely unable to retain possession – despite the fact it was their first match of the tournament away from the shocking pitch in Nelspruit.

And when defender Paul Koulibaly attempted a back-heel, almost handing Nigeria a scoring chance, the Burkinabe were in danger of self-destructing.

Aristide Bance tried to lift his side when he fired over Burkina Faso’s first effort on goal and then dragged a free-kick wide but with the likes of Pitroipa anonymous in the first half, there was little threat posed to the Nigerians.

In contrast, Nigeria’s Mba produced a moment of sheer brilliance to break the deadlock just before half-time.

When the ball ricocheted to the midfielder on the edge of the box, he used his right foot to delicately flick the ball over Koffi and as the ball dropped on the other side of the defender, Mba volleyed in superbly with his left boot.

Burkina Faso’s previous best performance came in 1998 when they finished fourth.

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