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Super Eagles cap off memorable cup

The scene was set for a thrilling climax as around 90 000 football fans packed the National Stadium in anticipation. The final showdown of Afcon 2013 pitted newly-installed favourites Nigeria up against underdogs Burkina Faso.

Nigerian fans breathed a collective sigh of relief as Victor Moses passed a late fitness test but striker Emmanuel Emenike wasn’t quite so fortunate.

For the first 20 minutes, the Super Eagles dominated the game by attacking down the right hand side of the pitch. This made it rather difficult for left-back Saidou Panandetiguiri of Burkina Faso to venture forward.

Moments before the halftime whistle was blown, the Super Eagles launched one final counter-attack, which paid rich rewards. The ball ricocheted and finally fell to Sunday Mba, who picked his spot and coolly beat the goalkeeper at his far post.

Having gone into the break 1-0 up, the second half saw the Nigerians retain possession, pass the ball more effectively and ultimately create the better chances.

While the Burkinabe deserve full credit for their efforts at Afcon 2013 and truly gave it their best shot in the final, it was just a case of one bridge too far. I felt the Super Eagles did really well to physically outmuscle the Stallions.

Well done to Nigeria for lifting the trophy after 19 long years – they are deserved champions. The Super Eagles are flying high again!

22-year-old Victor Moses continues to impress and had a superb tournament. Ghana’s John Boye was the pick of the Afcon 2013 defenders, while midfielders Seydou Keita and Jonathan Pitroipa were pure class.

However, for me the player of the tournament accolade should have been awarded to Cape Verde’s Ryan Mendes rather than Pitroipa. While the latter played with skill and pace, the striker was perfectly balanced, quick off the mark and showed his football brain by leading the line intelligently.

With all this talent on our continent, it’s little wonder Africa remains a happy hunting ground for football scouts from around the world.

On a lighter note, for me the winner of the Mr Personality Award should go to Burkina Faso marksman Aristide Bance. The man with the bleached-blond locks is a real character and a decent player to boot!

The third-place playoff game normally has a ‘kissing your sister’ type of feel to it, but I must give credit to both sides for producing an enterprising encounter.

I felt Malian skipper and benefactor Seydou Keita again proved the difference. He played with class and panache throughout his side’s stay in South Africa. He has graced football fields throughout the world playing for Marseille, Barcelona and most recently Dalian Aerbin in the Chinese Super League. While the curtain may have come down on his Africa Cup of Nations career, he remains a highly respected figure in African football.

Centre forward Mahamadou Samassa was another of the Eagles’ stars on the day and in the end Mali went on to win the bronze medals quite comfortably.

Ghana had their chances in the game and will be undoubtedly disappointed with a fourth-place finish. To be honest, I don’t feel their captain Asamoah Gyan reached the level of play he achieved during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Last but not least, hearty congratulations to South Africa for hosting this wonderful competition. Afcon 2013 truly showed that the big teams can no longer take the likes of Burkina Faso, Mali and Cape Verde for granted.

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