Africa Cup of Nations 2013: Keys to Watch for in Tournament Final

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 7, 2013

NELSPRUIT, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 06: Solomon Asante from Ghana (L) and Florent Rouamba from Burkina Faso chase the ball during the 2013 Orange African Cup of Nations 2nd Semi Final match between Burkina Faso and Ghana at Mbombela Stadium on February 06, 2013 in Nelspruit, South Africa. (Photo by Manus van Dyk/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Gallo Images/Getty Images

There are storylines aplenty heading into the Africa Cup of Nations final, and there are a handful of keys to watch out for in what should be a thrilling match between Burkina Faso and Nigeria.

Burkina Faso have been the Cinderellas of the tournament, and that improbable run continued into the final after they took down Ghana on penalty kicks in the semifinal.

On the other end, Nigeria entered the tournament as one of the favorites and are now just one win away from staking their claim as the continent's top team.

It's a true battle of David vs. Goliath. Let's look at the big keys heading into this showdown.


Containing John Obi Mikel

The most talented player on the pitch, Nigeria's John Obi Mikel will be all over the pitch for the duration of this match. 

Mikel has been tearing up defenses so far in this tournament, and Burkina Faso should be working their tails off figuring out how they're going to contain the elite playmaker.

In midfield, Mikel can have a vast impact on the game for the Super Eagles and can create goals with just a sliver of extra space. 

If Mikel leaves the pitch without a goal or assist, then Burkina Faso did their job. 


Burkina Faso's Veterans Stepping Up

So far, Burkina Faso's youngsters have been the major players stepping up and delivering to continue this epic run that they're on.

Now, in the most crucial of circumstances, they must turn to their veteran leaders.

Moumouni Dagano at forward is the first name that comes to mind. As their veteran superstar, he should be able to score in front of goal and find room to make his plays.

If he doesn't, Les Etalons will have no chance.


Finding Lockdown Defensive Game

Both of these teams have showcased the ability to shut down their opponents for long periods of time, but neither has done so consistently.

Whoever can do so in the most dominant way possible will likely come out on top.

Nigeria has the leaders on the defensive end of the ball, and Burkina Faso has their best leaders on offense. That's the side of the pitch I'm most excited to watch, as the clash should be something to be remembered.

Nigeria and Burkina Faso will be heading into this all-telling match with a clean sheet on their minds.