Soccer

Nigeria revels in first African Cup victory in 19 years

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Associated Press
2/10/2013 7:42:11 PM
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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Chelsea's Victor Moses succeeded where Didier Drogba failed last year as Nigeria lived up to its status as favourite by beating Burkina Faso 1-0 to lift the Cup of Nations on Sunday.

Nigeria clinched its first continental title in nearly two decades and man-of-the-match Moses' performance helped ensure there was no repeat of Zambia's underdog victory over Drogba's favoured Ivory Coast 12 months ago.

Sunday Mba's sublime goal in the 40th minute won it this time and delivered another triumph for coach Stephen Keshi after he captained Nigeria to its last African Cup crown in 1994.

"Winning this tournament is mainly for my nation," Keshi said. "When I came on board a year and a half ago my dream is to make all Nigerians happy."

Mba decided the game in front of around 87,000 fans at Soccer City with a left-foot volley after he expertly controlled a rebound and clipped the ball over a defender.

Burkina Faso fell short of what would have been a surprising triumph in its first final, having progressed beyond the group stage for only the second time. The Burkinabes still exceeded all expectations by just making the final.

"Football is football. You have to be great when you win and humble when you lose," Burkina Faso coach Paul Put said. "Congratulations to Nigeria and also to my players. I'm very proud."

Mba's goal came after Moses' shot was blocked, and was worthy of deciding a final.

In three swift motions, Mba controlled the ball, chipped it over Mohamed Koffi and volleyed across goalkeeper Daouda Diakite and into the far right corner for the title-clinching goal.

It gave Nigeria its third African Cup title and made Keshi just the second man to win the tournament as both a player and coach. He is the first black African coach to win the continent's biggest prize in over 20 years.

"I'm so, so proud of what they did at this tournament," Keshi said of his team.

Wilfried Sanou had a powerful low shot saved in the 74th minute in Burkina Faso's best chance for an equalizer, but Nigeria controlled most of the game and eventually didn't miss striker and joint-top scorer at the tournament Emmanuel Emenike, who was out of the final with injury.

The victory ended 19 years of disappointment for Africa's most populous nation, and also made it the last country to qualify for June's Confederations Cup in Brazil as continental champion.

In a late gesture, Keshi brought Joseph Yobo off the bench in the 89th minute to give the veteran defender and regular captain a chance to finally lift the trophy in his sixth and last African Cup.

"It feels great," Yobo said. "It's a dream come true. I've been around for 11 or 12 years. I said it was going to be my last. I'm short of words. This is a massive achievement."

Moments after the final whistle, the winning players picked up flags from their supporters and ran around the field waving them. They then huddled with their arms lifted before defender Efe Ambrose ran toward the biggest Nigeria fan section and did a series of backflips.

Players danced together and Keshi was carried on the shoulders of some team members, waving to the fans. Yobo lifted the gold trophy, with players and coaching staff donning green and white t-shirts with the words 'Nigeria, Champions of Africa' on the front.

Earlier, Ambrose hit the first shot of the game inside a minute and headed a free kick from Moses just over the crossbar in the seventh.

Moses also caused trouble for the Burkina Faso defence as he led the attack strongly in Emenike's absence and Nigeria was far more enterprising than its opponent in the first quarter.

The Chelsea forward beat his marker down the left wing in the 20th -- having also threatened earlier down the right -- and put in a dangerous low cross that Diakite smothered.

Tall blonde-haired striker Aristide Bance had Burkina Faso's first real effort in the 25th, but sent it rising high and to the right of Vincent Enyeama's goal. His 28th-minute free kick skipped wide of the post as the Burkinabes began to slowly find their feet in their country's biggest game.

Bakary Kone's header at the back post from Charles Kabore's deep free kick seven minutes before halftime was wide and minutes later Mba's strike gave the Nigerians the lead.

His surging run, juggle and quick-witted volley left Diakite stationary near his goal-line as the ball flew past him.

Brown Ideye hit a low shot across goal in the opening minutes of the second half after more work from the impressive Moses as Nigeria remained in control.

Burkina Faso found its first major final tough going at the 2010 World Cup final venue, having played all its previous games in Nelspruit. Star player Jonathan Pitroipa was cleared to play after having a red card from the semifinals rescinded but failed to make an impact.

Nigeria seemed content with defending its slender lead from around the 70th minute and Burkina Faso began to make some late progress.

After Musa Ahmed slipped when through on goal for Nigeria on a counterattack, Sanou's blistering low shot at the other end forced a good save from Enyeama, who pushed it just inches past the left post.

Nigeria celebrates (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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