By Tunde Sulaiman
Not given much of a chance when the tournament started 21 days ago, Nigeria’s Super Eagles Sunday night once again marched to the top of African football when they beat Burkina Faso 1-0 to lift the African Nations Cup trophy.
A 40th minute strike by home-based Super Eagle, Sunday Mba is what separated the two teams in the final played at the National Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa. The goal also ended Nigeria’s 19-year wait for the trophy.
It was a delightful goal by the man who plies his trade with Warri Wolves as he first lifted the ball over Burkinabe defender, Koffi with his right foot before using his left to plant the ball past a rooted Stallions goalkeeper.
It was Mba’s second goal of the tournament after scoring against the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire in only his 10 cap.
On the balance of play the Eagles deserved their victory having been the more purposeful of the two sides.
Although the Stallions shaded the match 51% to Nigeria’49% they were unable to replicate their Group C performance when a last minute strike denied the Eagles victory in a 1-1 draw.
However, Burkina Faso can still hold their heads high reaching the final of the competition for the very first time.
In addition to winning the $1.5million first prize, the Eagles have also secured the right to represent Africa at the FIFA Confederations Cup taking place later in the year in Brazil.
For Keshi, who became only the second man to have won and coached to Nations Cup victory, it is vindication of his decision to jettison some of the established players like Osaze Odemwingie and Obafemi Martins, and go with 17 Nations Cup debutants, including six home-based players to South Africa.
The win is the third time Nigeria will be crowned African champions after victorious in 1980 and Tunisia’94.