Sunday Mba scored the only goal to give Nigeria its first Africa Cup of Nations soccer title in 19 years and third in total.
Mba scored five minutes before halftime in yesterday’s final against Burkina Faso at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg, clipping the ball over Mohamed Koffi before volleying it past goalkeeper Daouda Diakite into the far corner.
The victory makes Nigeria’s Stephen Keshi only the second man to win the tournament as a player and coach after Egypt’s Mahmoud El Gohary. Keshi captained the Super Eagles when they secured the title in 1994. Nigeria also won the trophy in 1980.
“Winning this tournament is for my nation,” Keshi said in comments on the event’s website. “When I came on board over a year and a half ago, I wanted to make Nigerians happy. I told my captain that we coming here to win this trophy and he didn’t believe me.”
As the winner of Africa’s continental championship, Nigeria will join world champion Spain, Copa America title holder Uruguay and Oceania champion Tahiti in Group B at this year’s eight-team Confederations Cup in Brazil.
Playing in its first final since 2000, Nigeria got the decisive goal when the ball ricocheted to Mba on the edge of the penalty area. The midfielder flicked the ball over Koffi with his right foot, and as the ball dropped on the other side of the defender, Mba hit a left-footed volley past Diakite.
Burkina Faso, ranked 92nd by world governing body FIFA, was a surprise finalist after entering the 16-team event without a win in the tournament since 1998, a run of 17 matches. The nation’s previous best performance was reaching the semifinals as host in 1998.
“Nobody was expecting us to go this far,” Burkina Faso coach Paul Put told reporters. “There is still a long way to go for Burkina Faso, but the future is bright.”