Burkina Faso sweat on talisman
When Burkina Faso set off for South Africa three weeks ago, their objective was simply to win a game at the Cup of Nations.
After beating tournament favourites Ghana in the semi-finals – overcoming a series of dreadful refereeing decisions – they will face Nigeria on Sunday for the right to be named champions of Africa.
Burkina Faso is ranked the 203rd richest country in the world out of 228 analysed, and there has been little investment in the game since they hosted the Cup of Nations in 1998. Last year, having qualified controversially despite fielding an ineligible player against Namibia, they lost all three group games.
For this miraculous transformation, a lot of credit must go to coach Paul Put, who left Belgium for Africa after being banned for match-fixing and, after success with Gambia, is now continuing his narrative of redemption with the Stallions.
"When we arrived the only person who believed in us was the coach," said captain Charles Kabore. "I would like to thank the coach for the trust he put in us."
Few gave them much chance against Ghana, especially when they went behind to a debatable penalty. But even as they were denied two penalties, had a goal wrongly ruled out and had their best striker, Jonathan Pitroipa, sent off for a second yellow given for a dive when he was clearly fouled, they battled on, equalising and winning on penalties.
Burkina Faso have appealed against the dismissal, which would mean Pitroipa would be suspended for the final, while the referee, Slim Jdidi of Tunisia has been suspended.
If they are without Pitroipa, it would seriously diminish their goal threat. They have, though, overcome greater odds before. (© Daily Telegraph, London)