Africa Cup of Nations 2013: Players to Watch in Nigeria-Burkina Faso Final

Ethan Grant@DowntownEGAnalyst IFebruary 7, 2013

NELSPRUIT, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 21: Elderson Echiejile and Wilfried Leon Bakary Sanou during the 2013 Orange African Cup of Nations match between Nigeria and Burkina Faso from Mbombela Stadium on January 21, 2012 in Nelspruit, South Africa
(Photo by Manus van Dyk/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Gallo Images/Getty Images

Group C turned out to be a bit over-filled with talent at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, as Nigeria and Burkina Faso already faced off in the qualifying stage to the tune of a 1-1 draw.

However, past experiences will be thrown out for the final at FNB stadium in Johannesburg on Feb. 10, as the two great sides will meet again to see which club will head home with this year's title.

For the Super Eagles, experience and talent appear to the nation's best selling points as we start to make predictions, especially considering the current roster and Nigeria's AFCON wins in 1980 and 1994.

Burkina Faso hasn't ever been this far in the tournament, as the side's best finish came in 1998, when the club (as the host nation) finished fourth. However, Burkina Faso has proven to be no pushover for the rest of the AFCON field, knocking off powerhouses Zambia and Ghana en route to the title match.

With the showdown looming on Sunday and the two sides preparing for what is sure to be an epic conclusion to this year's tournament, here's a look at the players to watch for each team in the final leg of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.


Alain Traore, Burkina Faso

The talented striker was the hero the last time these two sides met in Group C play, notching the tying goal in the 94th minute to allow his club to escape with a much-needed point in group play. Without it, Burkina Faso would have been seeded differently into elimination play, and who knows what would have happened after that.

Traore leads the Stallions in goals with three, and forms a formidable tandem with Moumouni Dagano on the front line of the Burkina Faso attack. He's a player to watch not only because of his immense talent, but because the Super Eagles will try to make sure he doesn't get loose again and doom them in this final match.  


Daouda Diakite, Burkina Faso

The goalie gets the nod here in our players to watch section because he is the most notable goalie of the three on the Stallions roster, but there's some doubt as to who Paul Put will use in the finals against the Super Eagles.

Abdoulaye Soulama got the nod in the first match, and aside from an early gut-check goal from Nigeria, did a great job in the second half as the Stallions managed to only allow the one goal against the Super Eagles.

Still, Diakite (or whoever is manning the net for Burkina Faso) will have his hands full with a talented crop of Nigeria strikers that includes Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike, the next man on this list. If Diakite struggles, it could be a long day for the Stallions, especially considering the Super Eagles have put in six goals in their past two matches.

Emmanuel Emenike, Nigeria

The tournament's leading scorer had two goals in the big win over Mali in the semifinal game, and he's clearly established himself as the biggest threat for the Super Eagles during their sometimes dominant, sometimes lacking appearance at this year's AFCON.

Still, the Super Eagles are here because Emenike and Moses have been attacking like rabid dogs during this elimination period, and the Stallions will key on Emenike like the Super Eagles will key on Traore. It's all come down to this for Nigeria, so expect the attack to hinge on Emenike's ability to find holes in the Burkina Faso defense.

After struggling to put away the Stallions in group play after a stellar first goal got Nigeria on the board, look for Emenike to emerge as the biggest threat to blow the match wide open—for either side.


Efe Ambrose, Nigeria

Ambrose was sent off against Burkina Faso during group play (as reported by, and was reportedly shocked at the second yellow he received for contact with 16 minutes to go in the match.

It proved to be a big deal for the Stallions, who waited until the last second possible to capitalize—but capitalize they did. With Ambrose on the sidelines, Traore rifled home the equalizer and left the Super Eagles to ponder what could have been.

Ambrose then missed the next match against Zambia, another 1-1 tie without the club's best defender in toe. Coincidence or not, his return has sparked a two-match win streak and a berth in the finals, and his presence against Traore and Dagano will be exciting, as it will be important in determining which side takes home the gold.