When you win a title, you should win it with style. Nigeria weren’t at their best in the Africa Cup of Nations final against Burkina Fason, but Sunday Mba was, scoring a fantastic goal to give the Super Eagles the 1-0 win, and their first trophy in 19 years.
The nation that was the super power of African football throughout the 1990’s became the center of corruption and ego battles that eclipsed the never ending stream of talent coming out of the nation. It took a man like Stephen Keshi, who was the captain of the side that won the ACN in 1994 as a player, to send away all the bad emotions and ego battles by not inviting the bigger names of Nigerian football, focusing on personality, youth and unity.
Nigeria were pretty much the only team on the field during the first half, and fully deserved their opening goal through Mba, who scored the winner against the Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals. Mba took control of a ball that Victor Moses shot and was blocked, chipping it over one defender before scoring with a beautiful left foot volley.
The second half was full of tense moments for Nigeria, who gave up on the midfield dominance and allowed Burkina Faso to control the match. The Stallions had to play through the right wing and Prejuce Nakoulma, mostly finding the athletic and hard to mark Aristide Bancé. Nigeria mostly dealt with covering Alain Traore and the left winger Jonathan Pitroipa, doing a good job in covering the two most dangerous men Burkina Faso had to offer in this tournament.
Nigeria did suffer from Emmanuel Emenike not playing, as Ikechukwu Uche took his place in the first team without having much effect on the match. Brown Ideye, along with Mba, was probably the best match for Nigeria, possibly John Obi Mikel worth mentioning as well. Emenike was the more dominant man throughout the tournament.
Mba will surely find himself a European team very soon, being one of the six players on the Nigerian squad playing in the local league. THe Warri Wolves midfielder played in a more forward role in the final, and will probably get a chance to make a European exit at the age of 24, which is rather late for such a talent from a prominent African football nation.
After disappointments in finals and semifinals, a nearly 20 year wait is over. Nigeria now face the struggle of finishing on top of their group in the World Cup qualifiers, hoping to get a decent draw for the third and final round. Until they move on to that, the nation has some time to celebrate their Super Eagles returning to the top of African Football after two decades, hoping this time it lasts a little longer.