The Cup of Nations kicks off for these two sides with a tricky clash that neither can afford to lose – Stephen Keshi’s men tackle Les Etalons in the 2013 Afcon
Finally, after months, if not years of anticipation, Nigeria re-emerge at the continental high table. All that stands in the way of a triumphant return to Africa’s centrepiece occasion are the Stallions of Burkina Faso, west African neighbours unlikely to roll over for Stephen Keshi’s Super Eagles.
In recent friendly matches, against Catalonia and Cape Verde, the Big Boss has shuffled his pack, attempting to find the right blend of superstars and workhorses, trying to forge a complete outfit out of the players at his disposal. John Obi Mikel will surely feature in the heart of the midfield, but will the Chelsea man be employed with a defensive or an attacking remit?
The answer to this question may determine who plays alongside him in Keshi’s 4-3-3 formation. Perhaps it will be Norway-based midfielder Fegor Ogude, or maybe Nosa Igiebor will be allowed to fulfil creative duties in the centre of the field.
Despite losing all three of their games at the last Afcon, Burkina Faso arrive at South Africa keen to demonstrate improvement from 2012 – they are more than capable of pulling off a shock. Midfielder Jonathan Pitroipa is a player with the potential to cause Nigeria trouble, and although vocal before the tournament about the difficulties within the group, the Super Eagles will need to keep close tabs on Rennes’ creative hub.
Pitroipa will likely be supporting Moumouni Dagano and Alain Traore, and the pair have more than enough natural ability to test Vincent Enyeama and the defenders charged with protecting Nigeria’s goal. Charles Kabore of Marseille, is a key player at the back for Burkina Faso, and he will need to be on top form for the Stallions to get anything from the match.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Nigeria’s opposition used to play as ‘The Upper Volta’ before the country changed their name in 1984 to Burkina Faso
- The Super Eagles have finished in third-place a record six times, beating Tunisia, Cameroon, Senegal, Algeria, and Mali (twice) in the play-off matches.
- Whilst Nigeria have become the Kings of third-place finishes at the Afcon, Burkina Faso’s best effort was in 1998, on home soil, when the Stallions finished in fourth place.
- Along with Niger, the Burkinabe struggled at Afcon 2012 – departing the tournament after the group stage, having accumulated no wins and zero points.
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