Burkina Faso to face Ghana in semis
NELSPRUIT, South Africa (AP)
Burkina Faso scored midway through extra time for a 1-0 win over Togo and a place in the semifinals of the African Cup of Nations on Sunday.
Jonathan Pitroipa was unmarked from a corner in the 105th minute to head past an out-of-position Kossi Agassa and in off the crossbar, taking the Burkinabes through to the last four for just the second time - and first since they hosted the tournament in 1998.
The goal settled a poor match on the rugged, sandy and much-criticized surface at Mbombela Stadium and ended the campaign of Emmanuel Adebayor's Togo, which was playing in its first African Cup quarterfinal.
Burkina Faso plays Ghana back at Mbombela in Nelspruit in the semifinals. Nigeria faces Mali in Wednesday's other last-four encounter in Durban.
Adebayor had two of the best chances in regulation, but his header was cleared off the line in the 47th and he couldn't beat Burkina Faso goalkeeper Daouda Diakite when clear on goal in the 78th.
Before this tournament, Burkina Faso had only made it out of the group stage once in seven appearances: in that run to the semis at home 15 years ago.
''It was a dream that came true,'' Burkina Faso's Belgian coach Paul Put said. ''What can you say? We are very happy. We didn't expect this result. Everybody in Burkina Faso was already satisfied (with the quarters) but I told the players we are here ... and we have the opportunity to play the semifinal.''
Adebayor cut an increasingly frustrated figure up front as his teammates struggled to provide him with quality chances or possession on a poor field that devalued the last quarterfinal at the Cup of Nations and could yet spoil Wednesday's second semi there.
''It was not easy because the pitch does not allow you to play very good,'' Put said.
Adebayor had his header hooked away by defender Sadou Panandetiguiri with inches to spare as it bounced toward goal early in the second half. The Togo captain then brushed past two defenders to carve an opening out for himself late in the second half, but Diakite rescued Burkina Faso with his block.
Other than that, there was little from either team until Pitroipa popped up to ensure Burkina Faso won without leading scorer Alain Traore, who was ruled out of the remainder of the tournament with a thigh injury before Sunday's quarterfinal.