Africa Cup of Nations 2013: Well done Nigeria, but see you in two years

Africa Cup of Nations 2013: Nigeria claim their first title since coach Stephen Keshi skippered them to victory in 1994

Nigeria
1
Burkina Faso
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So that was that then. The Africa Cup of Nations 2013 is over for another two years, with Nigeria picking up their first title since coach Stephen Keshi skippered them to victory in 1994.

Sunday Mba’s ironically-timed winner was enough to give the Super Eagles the win in a fiercely-contested, though largely poor, final in Johannesburg, which will give the recently much-maligned Nigeria a huge boost.

Chelsea pair Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel both enhanced their own reputations while their club-mates struggle to hold on to the coattails of second-placed Manchester City, who in turn now need binoculars to see rivals United.

The former Wigan Athletic and Crystal Palace man, who was a serious injury doubt prior to the final after limping out against Mali in the last four, was central to everything Nigeria did, with his constant raiding always making it look like a goal wasn’t far away.

Indeed, had not Ahmed Mousa fallen over with nobody around him in the second half, following Moses’ through-ball, Nigeria would have been home and dry and earlier in sealing their third Afcon triumph.

Mikel is a divisive character in the Premier League – some fans loathe him, some just hate him. Seriously, he is appreciated for what he does in Chelsea’s midfield, but many are left wondering how he keeps his place in Rafael Benitez’s (for now) side.

But throughout the tournament in South Africa, the 25-year-old has shown that he is almost literally Nigeria’s bedrock, and has had an outstanding tournament – though Sundays’s quiet and solid performance, with a booking for dissent thrown in, did not match his high standards.

Burkina Faso were underdogs, and unfortunately, played like them too.

Not even the reinstatement of Jonathan Pitroipa following his red card against Ghana could inspire the Burkinabe to reach the heights of beating the Black Stars, and in the end Nigeria saw out victory quite comfortably.

But the Stallions can be proud of what they’ve achieved under Belgian coach Paul Pot, with Wednesday’s win against Ghana on a sand-pit pitch infested with moths, while tonight’s final was a bridge too far.

But what of Afcon itself?

It will not be remembered as fondly as it would like to be – due mainly to it coming right in the middle of the Premier League’s busiest patch, with FA Cup football added to boot, and will only re-enter peoples’ consciousness in two years time.

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