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Monday, February 11, 2013

Stephen Keshi’s Trust in Homegrown Players Vindicated as Nigeria Win 2013 AFCON

Chelsea and Nigeria midfielder holds the Africa Nations Cup title
In a game played on a Sunday, it could only be befitting that a lad named Sunday would be the man to bring enormous joy to Africa’s most population nation with over 162 million people.

Nigeria ended their 19-year drought for the African Nations Cup title after beating surprise finalists Burkina Faso by Sunday Mba’s solitary goal just five minutes before the interval. The Aba-born 24-year-old who plays in central midfield struck a fantastic effort in the 40th minute that was enough to down the Stallions and hand the Super Eagles a title they have missed out on since their all-conquering 1994 side.

Mba, a homegrown star who plays for Nigeria Premier League side Warri Wolves, was also the man who scored the winning goal in Nigeria’s 2-1 win over Cote d’Ivoire in the quarter finals.

Nigeria and Burkina Faso went into the match played at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, home to Kaizer Chiefs and the preferred venue for the Soweto derby, hoping to be the second team to lift a major trophy after Spain did so in the 2010 World Cup. The setting was almost the same with the 94,736 capacity stadium graced by over 85,000 people.

The Super Eagles were riding on a 12-game unbeaten run but they were just but favorites against a Burkinabe side that was boasting of a mean defensive unit that had conceded only two goals heading into the final. Nigeria had conceded five more but scored seven more.

The two teams had already met in the group stages with the match ending 1-1, Alain Traore’s last minute effort cancelling out Emmanuel Emenike’s opener for the Eagles.

However, this was a different setting with stakes higher than ever.

The Super Eagles more than less followed the script, dominating their West African opponents in much of the first half. However, they struggled to breach the Stallions’ defence until Mba pounced on a Victor Moses ball before riffling in past Daouda Diakité in Burkina goal.

The second half was entertaining but produced no goals for either teams as the Super Eagles held on to win a third nations cup title, and their first under a local coach in Stephen Keshi.  The two managers to have led Nigeria to the title before were Brazilian Otto Martins Gloria and Dutch Clemens Westerhof in 1980 and 1994 respectively.

Keshi, who was the captain when Nigeria last won the title in 1994 becomes only the second man to win the cup as coach and player, following in the footsteps of Egyptian Mahmoud Al Gohari.

Keshi took over the Super Eagles hot seat in 2011 and was widely criticized for thrusting his trust in local players heading into the African ultimate football masterpiece. The 51-year-old who is Nigeria’s 7th most capped player with 65 caps however was surely vindicated after Mba stole the headlines and the local players held their own against their far-travelled colleagues who are held with higher esteem.

So after finishing third in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010 African Nations Cup and failing to even qualify for the 2012 tournament, Nigeria are the 2013 Champions and will participate in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil where they will play Uruguay, Tahiti and Spain in Group B.

Meanwhile, Burkina Faso's Jonathan Pitroipa was named player of the tournament much to the surprise of many who thought Nigeria's John Obi Mikel or Victor Moses would bag the honour. Moses was however named the Fair Player of the Tournament with his Nigerian teammate Emmanuel Emenike going home with the golden boot after scoring four goals. Youssef Msakni's stunning strike for Tunisia against Algeria was the goal of the tournament.

The team of the tournament had 5 Nigerians led by Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama. The defenders are Burkina's Bakary Kone, Nigeria's Efe Ambrose and Cape Verde's Fernando Maria Neves. The midfield had Nigeria duo John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses, Mali's Seydou Keita, Ghanian Wakaso Mubarak, and Burkinabe's Jonathan Pitroipa as Asamoah Gyan and Emmanuel Emenike headed the front line.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!