As the Afcon draws near, Goal Nigeria begin examining the three teams that will form their group stage opposition for Stephen Keshi and his Super Eagles
Appearances at the Cup of Nations: 9
1978, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2010, 2012, 2013
Best ever performance: 1998
A 4thplace finish, on home soil in 1998, is the Stallions best effort in the Afcon. Emerged from a tough group by beating Guinea and Algeria, only to lose to eventual-champions Egypt in the semi final. Defeated by DR Congo on penalties in the third place playoff after a thrilling 4-4 draw which included 5 goals scored in the final quarter of an hour. Apart from this tournament, the Afcon has produced little but mediocrity for the West Africans.
Famous moment in Afcon history
The tournament on home soil was an emotional rollercoaster for Burkinabé fans, the highlight being a tense and exhausting quarter final against Tunisia in Ouagadougou. Leading for 45 minutes, the home side capitulated late on, with Espérance winger Hassen Gabsi scoring a late equaliser. In another legendary, nail-biting penalty shootout, both teams missed a kick, taking the proceedings to sudden death. Eventually, the North Africans faltered, centre back Sami Trabelsi failing to convert whilst Ousmane Coulibaly of Racing Club de Bobo made no such mistake.
It took another late goal, this time in the Stallions’ favour, to seal their Afcon qualification this time around. After losing 1-0 in Bangui, against a Central African Republic side buoyed after having previously defeated Egypt, Burkina were facing an uphill battle in the return leg. Their worst fears were realised within 7 minutes however, as Paris-born midfielder David Manga scored for the visitors – leaving the home side needing three goals to qualify.
Remarkably, they managed it; Alain Traoré reducing arrears 11 minutes later, before super striker Moumouni Dagano scored a second from the spot. C.A.R. still led on away goals however, and it took a winner from Traoré, in the 6th minute of additional time, to seal the Stallions’ passage to the Afcon, and leave the Ouagadougou crowd in raptures.
A recent focus on youth development has vastly improved the options available for Burkina Faso, and gone are the days when they would routinely be considered among the continent’s whipping boys. Despite the presence of some talented men in the centre of the park, including Jonathan Pitroipa and Abdoul Razak Traoré, the team remains too dependent on midfield maestro Alain Traoré. This was no more evident than with his last-gasp winner against the Central African Republic. The versatile Charles Kaboré, of Marseille, is another important piece of the jigsaw, and along with Pitroipa, is capable of inspiring those around him. Despite passing 30, Moumouni Dagano is still a striker to be respected in the African context.
The Manager: Paul Put
Replacing longstanding Portuguese boss Paulo Duarte after a disappointing Afcon 2012, Paul Put struggled to make an instant impact in the Burkina Faso hotseat. This was despite recalling former keeper Abdoulaye Salama after a four year absence from the national side, and introducing youngster Soumaila Belem to the fold. Both of whom will travel with the side to South Africa. Poor results against Congo-Brazzaville, and in the first leg against the C.A.R. have not filled fans with confidence, but the fight and desire showed by the team in coming back to qualify will have encouraged some quarters.
Put cut his managerial teeth in Belgium with Lokeren and Lierse, before a stint as head coach of the Gambia prepared him for his position in Ouagadougou.
Skipper: Moumouni Dagano
With over a half-century of caps, and a national record of close to a goal a game, Moumouni Dagano is the physical figurehead of the Burkinabé national outfit. Having been part of the team since 1999, the Al-Sailiya forward offers experience as well as a handy knack of consistently finding the net. Like many of the Afcon’s key striking threats this year however, he failed to prosper in Europe, where moves to Sochaux and Guingamp didn’t prove to be the stepping stones the striker had hoped for.
Since 2008 he has found fame and fortune in the Middle East, where three Qatari clubs have benefited from his astute positioning and power in the air. His leadership qualities will be invaluable to the Stallions, and he will offer a great test for Super Eaglesskipper Joseph Yobo.
Key Player: Alain Traoré
The Lorient star is the heart and soul of this Burkinabé side, and progression may well depend upon his inspiration in crunch matches against Nigeria and Zambia. Injury worries had prompted strong suggestions that he would be unable to compete in Africa’s centrepiece, but thankfully for Stallions fans, he makes the trip – primed to score the crucial goals needed, or to inspire the team from a deeper post. Key attributes include dribbling and pace, and recent years have seen Traoré approach his role with the national side more maturely.
One to Watch: Abdou Razak Traoré
With go-to Burkinabé wonderkid Bernard Traoré having failed to make the cut for the Afcon, I have chosen to highlight the inconstant fortunes of his namesake Abdou Razak in selecting my ‘One to Watch’ ahead of the Afcon.
Once the bright hope of Burkinabé football, Traoré demonstrated an incredible talent and a sumptuous technique as a youngster at Raja Casablanca. It seemed that the midfielder was set for a career not just of decorating teams, but actually influencing them as a creative hub and key attacking talent. Things haven’t quite worked out that way, however, and a move to Rosenborg proved to be the nadir of a disappointing early career.
Now demonstrating his talent once more, in Poland with Lechia Gdansk, all is not lost for the 24-year-old. Perhaps the promise of the Afcon, and a return to the spotlight, might help this talented player rediscover some of his lost lustre.
Super Eagle Opposition in the Spotlight: Burkina Faso