Nigeria captured its long-awaited third African Nations Cup title with a dominant 1-0 performance over Burkina Faso in Johannesburg.
Sunday Mba fired the Super Eagles ahead with a superb volley five minutes before the break after a period of pressure saw Burkina Faso, competing in its first final, succumb to Stephen Keshi’s side.
Wilfried Sanou came close to equalizing for the Stallions midway through the second half but his brief flash of brilliance was extinguished by a top-drawer save by Vincent Enyeama.
It was Nigeria’s first final since 2000 but it was hot favorites ahead of the match against the minnows from west Africa due to its 12-game unbeaten record.
Nigeria’s win means coach Keshi becomes only the second man to win the cup as coach and player, following in the footsteps of Egyptian Mahmoud Al Gohari.
The Super Eagles set their stall out early, with wave after wave of attack which pegged Burkina Faso back into their own half for the majority of the first 45 minutes.
Efe Ambrose had the first chance of the match when he headed over the bar from Victor Moses‘ free kick in the seventh minute before Burkina Faso goalkeeper Daouda Diakite almost made a disastrous mistake moments later.
Diakite came off his line to take a ball above his own defender’s head, only to fluff his take, with Brown Ideye’s resulting weak shot looping over the bar.
It was a huge let off for Burkina Faso in its first taste of the competition’s final, after it had previously only reached the last four of the tournament in 1998 where it lost to eventual champions Egypt.
However, there was a glimmer of creativity from midfielder Jonathan Pitroipa, who had his red card from the last match against Ghana rescinded, when he made a good run up the right and drew in four Nigeria defenders, only for the resulting corner to be easily neutralized.
Nigeria kept up the pressure, Aristide Bance wasting a good chance when his low, drilled 25-yard free-kick flashed just wide of Enyeama’s right post, before Ikechukwu Uche‘s turn on edge of box was miscued by the onrushing Ideye.
Burkina Faso was struggling to get out of its own half and Nigeria’s dominance told five minutes before the break, when Mba volleyed past Diakite from the middle of the box.
After some good build-up play, Moses’ shot was blocked and looped up to Mba, who plucked the ball from the air to fire the Super Eagles to a deserved lead.
The goal gave the match a much-needed boost, with Burkina Faso increasing its urgency and making a couple of surging runs into the Nigeria box before the half-time whistle.
Nigeria almost doubled its lead two minutes after the break when Moses played in Ideye, who was unable to get enough angle on his strike and flashed it across the face of goal.
Moses then wasted a golden chance to score on the counter-attack when he failed to pull the trigger when one-on-one with defender Madi Panandetiguiri.
The Nigeria defense was then called upon to keep out two testing corners before Super Eagles goalkeeper Enyeama denied Sanou’s powerful strike with a fantastic diving save to tip it around the post.
However, Burkina Faso remained unable to find that elusive cutting edge, with substitute Moumouni Dagano firing over the bar with his stoppage time free-kick in their last meaningful attack.
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