Nigeria wins African Cup for first time in 2 decades

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Nigeria wins African Cup for first time in 2 decades


JOHANNESBURG - Chelsea’s Victor Moses succeeded where Didier Drogba failed last year as Nigeria lived up to its status as favorite 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 favored 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 an 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.

AP



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