Wayne Rooney and a rhinoceros

The ultimate preview of the 2013 Afcon Final: Will it be Stephen Keshi's time or can the Burkinabé shock the world in Soweto?

Outside Soccer City, site of the 2013 Afcon final (Image by Matthew Perkins, via Flickr CC).

Nineteen years ago, a Super Eagles team captained by one Stephen Okechukwu Keshi won the Africa Cup of Nations in Tunis. Will it be Keshi’s time again in Soweto today? We leave the serious predictions to the professionals. Check out the latest from BBC reporter Peter Okwoche (we love him) who staged a pre-final prediction match between a bunch of kids. The video is cute, but we’re suspicious that  Team Nigeria seemed to get all the bigger kids. Where was the Sowetan Burkinabés version of Dagano? Anyway, the game ended with an assured 3-1 victory for Nigeria, but then what would you expect from a game set up by a reporter named Okwoche? Watch it here.

Others aren’t so sure about the Super Eagles chances. Top football analyst Michael Cox has detailed tactical analysis (well worth reading to get a sense of where today’s game will be won and lost) of both teams’ semi-final victories, Burkina’s over Ghana and Nigeria’s over Mali. Cox likes Nigeria, but on the strength of what he saw in the semis, he reckons Burkina may be the better side: “if they play with the same level of cohesion and fluidity [as they did vs Ghana], Burkina Faso will defeat Nigeria on Sunday evening.”

Cox reserves his strongest praise for Aristide Bancé, one of this blog’s favorite players at Afcon:

This was as good a centre-forward display as you’ll see in international football. Bancé was involved in everything – he sprinted in behind for chances on the counter, he had a header saved on the goal-line from a corner, he could drop deep and encourage the wide players beyond him. He even showed great defensive ability – at one point rushing back to stop a Ghana counter-attack himself, when most other forwards would have left that to the midfielders.

So look out for Burkina, and watch out for Bancé.

We’re just hearing Emmanuel Emenike won’t start the final, a big blow for the Nigerians. That man has been playing like he’s a cross between Wayne Rooney and a rhinoceros. Still, the Nigerians are confident. Is anyone surprised? Like this fan observed by Jonathan Wilson, the British football journalist: “Just seen a Nigeria fan wearing a loaf on his head, bearing the message ‘Eat them like bread’.

Further Reading

Goodbye, Piassa

The demolition of an historic district in Addis Ababa shows a central contradiction of modernization: the desire to improve the country while devaluing its people and culture.