Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
February 3, 2013
The Stallions were almost shocked by Central African Republic in qualifiers. Burkina Faso slumped to a 1-0 loss in the away leg and conceded an early goal in their home leg. Needing to score atleast three times to progress, Alain Traore scored on 96th minute to send the Stallions to their third consecutive AFCON tournament. Things have further improved in the main tournament with Burkina Faso progressing to quarter-final for the first time in 15 years.
The Stallions began their campaign against Nigeria and struggled to cope with Nigerian midfield for most of the match. They were staring down the barrel when Alain Traore repeated his qualification heroics to score the equalizer with the last kick of the game. Burkinabe didn’t exactly play well enough to deserve the point but they were off to an encouraging start nonetheless.
Next up was Ethiopia, a team which enjoyed tremendous local support. Buoyed by their fans Ethiopia started strongly and saw Shimelese Bekele strike the post in first half. Burkinabe slowly gained their composure and by the half hour mark they had taken control of the midfield. On 34th minute Alain Traore continued his superb form in AFCON 2013 when he finished emphatically giving Burkina Faso a 1-0 lead. The score remained in favour of the Stallions till 60th minute when Ethiopia were given a great chance to register their first AFCON win since 1976 when Burkina Faso goalkeeper Daouda Diakite was sent off for handling the ball outside penalty box. Rather than being daunted after losing a man, Burkina Faso pushed on for more goals and were rewarded on 74th minute when Traore scored his second of the match. Five minutes later Djakaridja Koné scored their third goal, ensuring Burkina Faso’s first ever AFCON victory away from home, after 21 failed attempts. Jonathan Pitroipa, who had a stellar game and assisted all three goals deservedly got his name on the score-sheet as Burkina Faso ran out 4-0 winners and took a gigantic step towards progression.
Needing to avoid defeat against Zambia, Burkina Faso defender bravely in a dull match which produced few and far between chances. Stallion defence, especially the 26 year old defensive midfielder Djakaridja Koné had a stellar game as they kept Zambian attack at bay for most of the match.
They may not be the most fashionable team in the tournament but Paul Put’s team, majority of whom are based in France, have shown an admirable quality of getting results when they matter. 24 year old Alain Traore is current top scorer of AFCON 2013 with 3 goals, hardly a surprising stat considering that he has already notched up 15 goals in 29 matches for his national team and was their top scorer in qualification stages of AFCON 2012 and AFCON 2013. Sadly, they will be missing tournament top scorer Traore for the quarter-final clash. The striker was ruled out of AFCON 2013 with a thigh injury. Djakaridja Koné and Jonathan Pitroipa have also had brilliant outings till now and will be Burkina Faso’s main inspiration should they progress further. Playing a 4-3-3 formation, Burkina Faso have two in-form strikers upfront and their defence has not been breached for last two matches.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-3): Diakite, Bakary Kone, Panandetiguiri, Keba Paul Koulibaly, Djakaridja Kone, Koffi, Rouamba, Aristide Bancé, Pitroipa, Balima, Kabore.
Togo had to take the tough route the final stage of AFCON 2013. They squeezed past Kenya thanks to away goals after a 2-2 aggregate score over two legs. Emanuele Adebayor struck in both legs against Gabon in the next round as Togo had to endure a nervy last few minutes of the home leg to scratch out a 2-1 victory and 3-2 aggregate win.
Les Eperviers began their campaign against favourite Ivory Coast and almost took advantage of a slow start by their opponents. On third minute if Emmanuel Adebayor took advantage of an error from Kolo Toure and was one on one with opponent custodian but he failed to keep his composure and wasted the opportunity. That would prove to be one of the best chances the Togolese got all game, despite their equalizer just before half-time. Gervinho’s late match-winner for Ivory Coast was a well-deserved strike for Togo’s opponents.
Togo had to get a positive result against Algeria in order to progress but it was their opponents who made a bright start to the match. The Desert Foxes created a number of chances in first 20 minutes but were denied by a Togolese defence which held out strongly. Les Eperviers were content to sit back and hit their opponents on the break. Togo took the lead, somewhat against the run of play, when Tottenham Hotspur striker Emmanuel Adebayor scored his first goal of AFCON 2013 just after the half hour mark. Despite going down Algeria continued to create chances and saw couple of penalty appeals turned down. The match also suffered from a 15 minute break when Algerian midfielder Adlène Guedioura managed to knock the frame of the goal down by backing into the net. As a result of the delay the referee had to add 13 minutes of injury time. It was in this period that Togo would put the match beyond doubt thanks to sub Dové Wome’s 96th minute strike.
All Togo needed to do was to avoid a loss against Tunisia to book a quarter-final berth for the first time in their history. Within 13 minutes of the kick-off Togo took the lead, for the first time in AFCON 2013, when he Togolese led after 13 minutes as Emmanuel Adebayor played in Serge Gakpe, who fired his team into a 1-0 lead. Tunisia clawed their way back and were awarded a penalty on the half hour mark which was duly converted by Khaled Mouelhi. The game was littered with poor refereeing decisions and both the teams could have gotten a penalty kick each. The Carthage Eagles did get the second penalty in second half as Saber Khlifa made most of Daré Nibombé’s challenge. Mouelhi stepped on the spot once again but saw his effort come off the post this time. This miss eventually proved crucial as Togo hung in for a 1-1 draw which put them into quarter-final for first time and also ensured that no North African team reached AFCON quarter-final for the first time in 20 years.
Incidentally, Togo was originally banned from AFCON 2013, a decision that was later overturned.
Togo will be missing Nibombe Dare and Jonathan Ayite for their match against Burkina Faso, both are suspended. They are likely to play a 4-2-3-1 formation with captain Adebayor as the lone striker.
Possible Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Agassa; Gaffar, Serge Akakpo, Bossou, Djene; Akakpo, Amewou, Romao, Gakpe; F. Ayite, Adebayor
Burkina Faso 1-0 Togo
This may not be the most awaited tie of quarter-final but both the teams have a wonderful chance of creating history. Burkina Faso has never excelled in AFCON outside of their own turf while Togo has never reached the last-4 in the competition. This will be a keenly contested match but Burkina Faso are in better form now and should clinch their first semi-final in over a decade.