Nigeria won its first AFCON Champion title in 1980 when it hosted the tournament for the first time as well. The next time it won the title again was fourteen years after in 1994 when it beat Zambia in the final match in Tunisia.
Now, nineteen years after its last win, Nigeria beat Burkina Faso last night in South Africa to claim its third Africa Cup of Nations Champions Title.
The team built by Stephen Keshi as Head Coach, consisted of a good mix of foreign and home based players, with Joseph Yobo as Captain of the squad. It was Yobo’s sixth appearance in the AFCON tournament, and he has announced it to be his last.
Stephen Keshi is the second person to win the AFCON as a player and as a coach. Speaking about the victory he said: “Winning this tournament is mainly for my nation…When I came aboard close to a year and a half ago, my dream was to make all Nigerians happy and to know that they have a very good team…We are not there yet, it’s still a process, I am happy about that…I want to dedicate this to all Nigerian coaches who have been praying for this team. It’s not for me alone, I hope some other African coaches will get to this position and make their nation proud.
Sunday Mba’s goal in the 40th minute of the match was enough to give Nigeria the trophy. The ball fell into his path as he advanced on goal, and displayed a flash of inspiration by flicking the ball over Burkina Faso defender Mohamed Koffi, then scoring the goal with his other foot as another defender closed in.
Burkina Faso defied all odds to reach the final for the first time ever. They were given a huge boost when Confederation of African Football (CAF) rescinded the red card shown to Jonathan Pitroipa in the semi-final, allowing him to play in the final. That didn’t yield much as he was held off throughout by Nigerian defenders Ambrose and Omeruo.
Nigeria’s victory means it will take part in the Confederations Cup in Brazil in June where it will face Oceania champions Tahiti, South American champions Uruguay and World champions Spain in the World Cup warm-up tournament.