Africa Cup of Nations 2013: 5 Reasons Nigeria Will Defeat Burkina Faso
Nigeria started slowly in the Africa Cup of Nations, but has gone on to play some magnificent matches. Now it is on the verge of winning the tournament.
Sunday's final against Burkina Faso will a very entertaining game between competent teams, who both had to overcome humongous obstacles.
Burkina Faso's Cinderella run has been fascinating to watch. Not only is this the country's first appearance in the final, but the countries the Stallions had to defeat on the way were top notch.
However, Burkina Faso's journey will end in Johannesburg. Nigeria has simply reached a level that the Stallions can't match.
After beating Mali by the score of 4-1, the Super Eagles are bubbling with confidence. That is just one of the reasons Nigeria is going to win the Africa Cup of Nations.
1. The Dominance of Mikel John Obi
The low point for Mikel came during the group stage when he missed a penalty against Zambia.
Since then, his play has been nothing short of a revelation. He shrugged off the horrible experience and proceeded to lead the Super Eagles past Cote d'Ivoire and Mali on the way to the final.
Mikel is the dominant defensive force on the team and arguably the best African player at this moment.
He has also showed that he's a level-headed leader, announcing to the press that he is not taking the final game against Burkina Faso for granted.
If Mikel keeps controlling the midfield the way he has been for the past week, Burkina Faso is in big trouble.
2. Victor Moses Looks Ready for the Game
Victor Moses is another Chelsea player who has been outstanding for Nigeria during the tournament. With Emmanuel Emenike already out for the game, it would have been devastating if Moses couldn't play either.
Luckily for the Super Eagles, MNT Football is reporting that he has been practicing and will most likely be fit for the final.
Moses impressed the whole world with his playmaking skills during the semifinal. His footwork was impeccable and he knew exactly how to exploit the gaps in Mali's defense.
Sunday, Oliseh, who played for Nigeria for more than a decade, tweeted that Moses is the player of the tournament. It would be hard to disagree.
3. Alain Traore Is Injured
Burkina Faso will have to do without Alain Traore, the hero from the first game against Nigeria.
The striker scored three goals in just two games before he had to leave the tournament due to an injury.
While the Stallions have managed to make it all the way to the final without their leading goal-scorer, the loss of Traore will prove devastating against the Super Eagles. Nigeria has finally figured out its offense and Burkina Faso can't count on merely conceding a single goal.
Additionally, it can't count on its midfield to score goals as it will have its hands full with Ogenyi Onazi, Sunday Mba and Mikel.
4. Win One for Yobo
Nigeria captain Joseph Yobo confirmed that he will be retiring after this edition of the Africa Cup of Nations. He has played 92 matches for his national team and is looking to go out on top.
Yobo has been out of the lineup lately, but he announced that he wasn't complaining as long as the team is winning.
I started the game but got injured. I am fit now, but it's left for the coach to decide if I play or not. The last time out, I played and even scored but we didn't make it; now we are here. What matters most is for the team to be winning, which we are doing.
You don't need to look further than this year's Super Bowl for an example of how a beloved captain's last quest for a title can energize an entire team.
The Nigerians will no doubt be looking to send Yobo out in a blaze of glory, which will only add motivation before the final.
5. This Is Not the Nigeria from the Group Stage
The Nigeria from the group stage was sloppy, prone to errors and let opponents back in the game. After the Super Eagles entered the knock-out stage, they dramatically improved their offensive capabilities and defensive structure.
The turning point was the 2-1 victory against tournament favorite Cote d'Ivoire.
Prior to that game, Nigeria had no identity. But with its back against the wall and the underdog label plastered on its forehead, it went to work. The result was a quick end to the golden generation's title hope.
Since then, Nigeria has played with confidence and it is heading into the final fresh off a dominant performance against Mali.
Burkina Faso can expect a whole other ball game from its 1-1 tie in the group stages.
The Super Eagles will be looking to emulate the game plan against Mali, where they effectively ended the game by scoring four goals in the first half.
The Stallions can be proud of what they've achieved in the Africa Cup of Nations, but this is Nigeria's time to shine.