Soccer

African Cup: Burkina Faso, Nigeria through to quarterfinals

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Associated Press
1/29/2013 8:33:22 PM
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NELSPRUIT, South Africa -- History was made at the African Cup of Nations on Tuesday as Zambia became the first defending champion to crash out of the group stage in 21 years, while Burkina Faso reached the second round for the first time on foreign soil.

In the other Group C match, Nigeria set up a tantalizing quarterfinal clash against tournament favourite Ivory Coast with a 2-0 win over Ethiopia, which ended a chaotic campaign by having its second goalkeeper sent off in three games.

Burkina Faso needed only a draw to advance, and qualified top of the group after holding Zambia to 0-0 in a match that was short on both quality and entertainment.

Nigeria finished below Burkina Faso on goal difference after Chelsea playmaker Victor Moses was twice fouled inside the area, and then kept his cool to find the net with both penalties for the Super Eagles.

While Sunday's quarterfinal between Nigeria and Ivory Coast will whet the appetite of fans, the tournament will move into the second round without its title holder after Zambia became the briefest of African champions.

Its reign was always likely to be the shortest yet after the Confederation of African Football switched the African Cup to odd years and played it back-to-back in 2012 and 2013.

The last team to win the continent's showpiece event and then fail to qualify for the second round at the next tournament was Algeria in 1992, but Zambia coach Herve Renard remained philosophical.

"It is better to have won something in your life than to go always in the quarterfinal and never win anything," he said. "This is not the end of the world. Before we used to go home a lot of times after the first round, and today you have to accept that this is football."

Burkina Faso had only previously reached the knockout stage when it hosted the competition in 1998.

"I think this is the biggest achievement because they hosted it one time and then they played a semifinal, but it was a long time ago," Put said. "Because we were very close we had to have the mentality to believe that we could go further for the qualification. I think it's history for Burkina Faso."

Knowing that the sandy Mbombela Stadium pitch would make free flowing football almost impossible, Put set his side up to defend - a tactic which ultimately paid off.

"The ingredient for the day was more pepper than salt for the soup," Put said.

Zambia was unable to produce the quality required to break its opponent down, with Collins Mbesuma wasting the only two genuine chances of the game.

With both matches heading into the final 10 minutes locked at 0-0, it looked as though qualification between Zambia and Nigeria might be decided by the two teams' disciplinary record.

In that case Nigeria would have been the casualty, but Moses hauled the Super Eagles into the next round with goals in the 80th and 90th minutes.

"I wasn't checking the scoreline of (the other) match, I wasn't paying attention," Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said. "I was focused on my team. My concern was for us to get one goal."

Moses was first brought down inside the area by Ethiopia defender Alula Girma, then was stopped by Ethiopia goalkeeper Sisay Bancha in another breakaway for the second penalty.

Bancha was shown a red card after committing the last penalty and a field player had to replace him because all three substitutions had already been made.

It was a shambolic yet oddly entertaining end for Ethiopia on its return to the tournament after 31 years, though it might have signed out on a high were it not for a brilliant save by Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama when his team was leading 1-0.

"We were playing well, but unfortunately in the end we allowed the goals," Ethiopia coach Sewnet Bishaw said.

Ethiopia needed to beat Nigeria and hope that Zambia lost its match against Burkina Faso.

The Ethiopians were also without top players Asrat Megersa and Adane Girma, who were injured in the first half against Burkina Faso, while goalkeeper Jemal Tassew was suspended for two matches for a reckless tackle in the opener against Zambia.

Aristide Bance (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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