Africa Cup of Nations 2013: Biggest Moments of AFCON so Far

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 7, 2013

NELSPRUIT, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 06:  Captain Charles Kabore (C) restrains Bakary Kone of Burkina Faso as they dispute a penalty desicion during the 2013 Orange African Cup of Nations 2nd Semi Final match between Burkina Faso and Ghana at Mbombela Stadium on February 6, 2013 in Nelspruit, South Africa.  (Photo by Manus van Dyk/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Gallo Images/Getty Images

With the Africa Cup of Nations heading toward its finale between Burkina Faso and Nigeria, it's finally time to look back at the biggest moments that got us to the final match.

The 16-team tournament held in South Africa had its fair share of scintillating moments that shaped the landscape of the tournament and affected which teams made it to the championship.

With plenty of surprises and also a few outcomes we expected, this year's AFCON was one of the best in history.

Let's take a look at the biggest moments so far in the Africa Cup of Nations as we prepare for the best moment yet in the finale.


Mali Taking Down Host South Africa in Quarterfinals

Just as they hoped to do in the 2010 World Cup, South Africa played inspired football in front of their home crowd in the AFCON.

That is, up until the quarterfinals. They ran into a Mali national team that was ready to shut down Bafana's consistent offense.

But South Africa did generally the same, and extra time passed with the game tied at 1-1. Penalty kicks were in order.

Both teams swapped goals on their first appearances, but once South Africa's second opportunity was saved, they never were able to net another. Mali won in the shootout, 3-1. 

The hosts, with aspirations to win the championship of their continent, were eliminated in an exciting fashion by a Mali team that did things the right way. It was undoubtedly one of the must-see matches of the tournament.


Burkina Faso Upsetting Ghana in Semifinals

We were pretty much scripted for a Ghana-Nigeria showdown in the AFCON final, before Burkina Faso came in and stole the show.

This year's underdog of the tournament, Burkina Faso surprised the field when they made it out of the group stage. But they weren't done there, as they took down an African soccer giant.

The match went to penalty kicks after being tied at 1-1, and Burkina Faso delivered with a 3-2 edge in the shootout.

Burkina Faso are ranked 92nd internationally by FIFA, so it's safe to say they weren't on many teams' scouting reports heading into the tournament. But they'll end up standing on the podium, regardless of the outcome against Nigeria. 


Nigeria Reaching Final After Long Wait

Two-time AFCON champions Nigeria had their sights set on the final from the first match. But it wasn't easily earned.

Looking for their first appearance in the championship match in 13 years, Nigeria had their hands full with an inspired Mali team. Coming off a win where they knocked off the host country, confidence was flowing for the Eagles.

But Nigeria took care of that with an incredible display of skill, topping their opponents 4-1. The result of the match was ensured with half an hour left.

It's been a long wait for the Nigerians, but it's paid off as they look for their third AFCON championship against the tournament's cinderella story.