Nigerian kings bask in glory

2013-02-11 13:08
Sunday Mba (Gallo)

Soweto - Nigeria ended a 19-year wait to be crowned kings of Africa after victory against Burkina Faso in the continent's premier football tournament, sending the Super Eagles to a showdown with the world champions.

Sunday's 1-0 final triumph over outsiders Burkina Faso in South Africa saw the thousands gathered to watch the match on giant screens near the national stadium in Nigeria's second city Lagos erupt with joy and celebration in the country's press.

"Kings of Africa" said The Punch newspaper on Monday, while The Nation called the win "Nigeria's magical hour".

VIDEO: Nigeria v Burkina Faso, highlights

Chelsea winger Victor Moses described the victory as one of the best days of his life after he played a pivotal role when Nigeria picked up a third Africa Cup of Nations title.

Moses, on his debut in the continental showcase, made a telling impact on the Super Eagles' journey to the 2013 title, clinched with a win earned through a first-half Sunday Mba goal.

He scored the two late goals that saw off Ethiopia to put Nigeria into the knock-out stages and was instrumental in Mba's first-half strike that proved sufficient to bring the coveted crown back to Lagos.

"One of best days of my life this is a dream come true I'm so proud to be Nigerian," Moses wrote on Twitter.

"The win is for each and everyone of u back home, I'll savour this," the former Crystal Palace and Wigan star added in another post.

Nigeria's third title, after wins in 1980 and 1994 when coach Stephen Keshi was captain, earned the Super Eagles a $1.5 million first prize and a place at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil in July.

They will face world and European champions Spain, Tahiti and Uruguay in the traditional World Cup warm-up.

It was a result that took Keshi into the record books as he equalled the feat of late Egyptian Mahmoud El Gohary by winning gold medals as a player and a coach.

Nigeria were 11 minutes away from being knocked out of the competition until Moses's timely intervention from the penalty spot against the Ethiopians.

The speedy 22-year-old was an ever present thorn in Burkina's side, and it was his shot that ricocheted off a defender that led to Mba's superb goal in the 40th minute.

Many thought he should have picked up the best player of the tournament award, which went instead to Burkina's Jonathan Pitroipa, with organisers CAF naming him instead fair player of the tournament.

That unheralded Mba should emerge as the match-winner was entirely fitting as the striker, plucked from the Nigerian league, perfectly vindicated coach Keshi's heavily-criticised policy of using locally-based players.

"It's a dream come true," beamed the 24-year-old Egugu Rangers forward, who also scored the winner in the 2-1 quarter-final win over Ivory Coast.

He added: "I score the only goal in the final, we win the title, I'm in complete shock.

"We've worked and suffered so hard to win, we've been waiting for this moment for so long, I'm so happy."

Godfrey Oboabona, one of the rocks in Nigeria's defence which held off a sustained late Burkina onslaught, added: "I am just full of joy for winning this trophy at my first attempt.

"I don't know what to say now, I am just short of words. I am on top of the world."

For team captain Joseph Yobo, who came on for the closing couple of minutes having missed the bulk of the competition with injury, the title was a fitting end to his Nations cup career.

The veteran 32-year-old Fenerbahce defender reflected: "This is my sixth Nations Cup and I'd already said it was going to be my last. Not because I can't play anymore, but because it's time to give my place to someone else.

"I thank God for giving me this victory in my final appearance."

Read more on:    afcon  |  victor moses  |  soccer

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