Burkina Faso, Nigeria Reach Africa Cup of Nations Soccer Final

Burkina Faso defeated Ghana 3-2 in a penalty shootout to advance to its first Africa Cup of Nations soccer final, where it will face two-time champion Nigeria.

Isaac Vorsah and Emmanuel Clottey sent penalty attempts wide for Ghana before Burkina Faso goalkeeper Daouda Diakite saved a third effort last night in Nelspruit, South Africa. The game went to the shootout after finishing 1-1.

Burkina Faso, ranked 92nd by world governing body FIFA, had entered the 16-nation event without a win in the tournament since 1998, a run of 17 matches. The winner of the Feb. 10 final in Johannesburg will join world champion Spain, Copa America winner Uruguay and Oceania champion Tahiti in Group B at this year’s eight-team Confederations Cup in Brazil.

“We are looking forward to doing well in our first ever final because I believe in my players and I have seen so much commitment from them,” Burkina Faso coach Paul Put said on the tournament’s website.

In yesterday’s opening semifinal in Durban, Nigeria beat Mali 4-1 to reach the continental championship match for the first time in 13 years.

“Nigerians have waited a long time for this moment,” coach Stephen Keshi said on the tournament website. “Nigerians have missed out a great deal in the last few years, my goal was to put smile on Nigerians.”

Burkina Faso had only once previously reached the semifinals when it hosted the tournament in 1998. Four-time champion Ghana was in the final four for the 13th time.

Mubarak Wakaso’s 13th-minute penalty gave Ghana the lead and Aristide Bance made it 1-1 in the second half. After 30 minutes of extra time, in which Burkina Faso had a goal disallowed and a man sent off, the game went to penalties.

Shots Wide

Vorsah’s first bobbled well wide of the goal. The shootout was tied 2-2 when Ghana goalkeeper Fatau Dauda dived to make a save against Paul Koulibaly.

Clottey sent Ghana’s next spot kick wide and, after Bance converted, Diakite saved Emmanuel Agyemang Badu’s shot to send Burkina Faso to the final.

Burkina Faso’s Prejuce Nakoulma had a goal disallowed in extra time after being called for a foul for having his foot up too high. Teammate Jonathan Pitroipa was then sent off after being shown a second yellow card for diving by Tunisian referee Slim Jedidi, though he appeared to have been tripped in the area by John Boye. Pitroipa will miss the final.

In Durban, Nigeria moves into the championship match for the seventh time after scoring three first half goals against Mali. The Super Eagles won the Cup of Nations in 1980 and 1994.

Elderson Echiejile gave Nigeria the lead when he stooped to head Victor Moses’s cross in the 25th minute. Brown Ideye beat a defender to tap in five minutes later and Emmanuel Emenike’s free kick deflected in off Mohamed Sissoko for an own goal just before halftime.

Ahmed Musa beat an offside trap to make it 4-0 on the hour before Mali’s Cheick Diarra closed the scoring with 15 minutes remaining.

Ghana and Mali will meet in the third-place playoff July 9 in Port Elizabeth.

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