History for Nigeria or Fairytale for Burkina Faso? Emenike doubtful

By evelyn watta
Feb 10, 2013

Nigerian forward Emmanuel Emenike is highly doubtful for the Super Eagles Africa Cup of Nations final against Burkina Faso on Sunday at the National Stadium in Johannesburg.

Emenike, the tournament's joint top scorer, trained with the team on Friday but sat out at Saturday's session which Moses was involved in the ball work at the venue of the match.

Stephen Keshi insisted he would make a decision on the availability of the two,who have a played a big role in their final qualification a few hours before the match, but from the final training session at the pitch late Saturday it was clear that the hip injury that Emenike picked in Durban against Mali last Wednesday would condemn him to the bench.

"We shall make a decision after the doctor assesses the two players before the final confirmation on their availability tomorrow morning, “said Keshi more concerned about winning the cup for Nigeria than his personal record at the Cup of Nations which should equal Mahmoud El Gohary's triumph as player and coach.

"This is not about Keshi more for Nigeria. We deserve this this as a country it's been a long time. For my CV am still building it doesn't come close still,” he added wearing his cap in reverse fashion, reminiscent of a soldier returning to base after a long day battle, a rather buoyant demeanor on the eve of the big final.

United Eagles without perennial problems

The ultimate climax for what has been one of the most discipline Eagles squad in recent times is the cohesion and the team’s fighting spirit, and were outside favourites for the Africa title.

“The difference in this squad and the others past Eagles squads have played with at the Africa Cup is there is a lot of unity, the players have potential,” Joseph Yobo, who at 32 is the eldest in the team and has had only one start which coincidentally was against the Burkinabes at the group stages.

He was part of the 1994 winning squad that last lifted the trophy in Tunisia and reckons that unlike in the past five tournaments he has been too, the team was under no pressure to perform.

“We always have problems in past squads but this time we are more together, more solid. And again unlike in the past we have always been favourites but this time people didn’t expect to see us here which has helped us grow in confidence.”

Even more interesting for Keshi is the inclusion of Jonathan Pitroipa to the Burkina Faso squad after his suspension was rescinded by CAF, a boost for the Stallions playing in a historic final.

“It is very good for the game, for the 90 000 people who will be coming to watch the final to come and the teams field their strong teams. Denying him a chance to play in the final without any offense would have been unfair,” reckoned Keshi.

The reversed sanction was a talking point too for his Belgina coach Paul Put. “Am definitely happy to have him back people come to the stadium to watch players at the level of Pitroipa.”

The final is a big win for Burkina Faso,Put

The Stallions have surpassed their expectations by reaching the final and are not ruling out a possible upset against Nigeria after knocking out the mighty Ghana losers 3-1 to Mali in for the third place playoff. Burkinabe also defeated quarterfinalists Togo.

“We are looking forward to playing one of the top football nation but as the underdogs reaching and playing in the final is already victory for us, a big win,” said Put.

Stopping the lethal Nigerian strikers will be top of his game plan.

“We know Nigerian strikers are dangerous but we played against Ghana and Zambia who have equally good strikers. There has been a been progression in the Nigerian team we faced in the group stages as much as our team has matured through,” he added in expecting bruising battle against the West African neighbours.

The Burkinabes led by Olympic Marseille captain Charles Kabore, are hoping that their historic final will be perfect with or without the cup when the final whistle is blown.

The pitch at the national stadium is in fairly good condition likened to the bumpy Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit where they played their qualifying round matches, and are keeping fingers crossed that they will only have their Nigerian opponents to face without the added pressure of dubious refereeing.