Burkina Faso stuns Ghana on penalties, makes final

Burkina Faso beat Ghana on penalties to reach its first African

Cup final in a stunning upset on Wednesday, coming from behind to

draw 1-1 after 120 minutes and then eliminating the four-time

champion 3-2 in the shootout.

Three Ghanaians missed their spot kicks, with Burkina Faso

goalkeeper Daouda Diakite pulling off the decisive save from

Emmanuel Agyemang Badu to send the underdogs through to Sunday’s

final against Nigeria at Soccer City, having only ever made it past

the group stage once before.

”When we arrived in this competition, the only person who

believed in us was our coach,” Burkina Faso captain Charles Kabore

said.

The Burkinabes didn’t even need to take their last kick as

Ghana’s players came up short at the end, having led the second

semifinal through Wakaso Mubarak’s 13th-minute penalty.

But playing in just its second semi and first in 15 years,

Burkina Faso dragged itself back into the game with Aristide

Bance’s equalizer in the 60th and then unleashed a succession of

attacks against the fading Ghanaians in extra time at Mbombela

Stadium.

Bance went close a number of times, while Burkina Faso also had

a goal disallowed, was denied what appeared to be a penalty when

Jonathan Pitroipa went down in the area in the 117th minute, and

often fell on the wrong side of Tunisian referee Slim Jdidi’s

decisions.

Instead of a spot kick, Pitroipa was shown a second yellow card

for diving and sent off. Burkina Faso still emerged victorious from

the shootout to howls of approval from the crowd, which had adopted

the team after it played its entire tournament in Nelspruit leading

up to the final.

”I was very upset during the game, very angry with the

decisions of the referee,” winning coach Paul Put said. ”It was

difficult to control myself. But like I said to the players at

halftime, we don’t need the referee to win today. For me, it’s a

great victory.”

While Burkina Faso celebrated its biggest footballing

achievement on any stage, Ghana again missed out painfully at the

African Cup. It last won the title in 1982 and has now made three

semifinals and a final in the last four tournaments, only to fail

in each.

”We are really sad at the moment … what else can I say?”

captain Asamoah Gyan said.

The loss appeared to be too much for Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah,

who didn’t attend the post-match news conference.

”We cannot find any excuses,” Gyan said. ”I think the better

side won. We lost on a penalty shootout. The luckier side

won.”

Defender Isaac Vorsah screwed the first penalty of the shootout

badly wide and Emmanuel Clottey also saw his go past the left post.

Agyemang Badu had the decisive and devastating miss when Diakite

guessed right and pushed the ball away to begin Burkina Faso’s wild

celebrations.

”Surprises are always there,” Put said, comparing his team to

the Zambians that won the title over Ivory Coast 12 months ago.

”Maybe this time is our time.”

Much earlier, Wakaso swept in his third goal from the spot at

this tournament for Ghana’s early lead, but Bance pounced on a

defensive error from the Ghanaians to claim a popular

equalizer.

Bance also had a powerful header saved on the line in the 53rd

and Gyan hit the post for Ghana five minutes later – and two

minutes before Burkina Faso struck back when Ghana lost possession

deep in its half and Bance took his opportunity to shoot past

Fatawu Dauda.

The outstanding Bance should have won it for Burkina Faso in the

102nd minute as he beat two defenders and carved open a chance,

only to send his shot over the crossbar.

Burkina Faso had its goal ruled out contentiously in the 105th –

right on halftime in extra time – when Prejuce Nakoulma was

adjudged to have fouled a defender before poking the ball over

Dauda and into the net.

Coach Put was furious with the Tunisian referee’s decision then

and even angrier after Pitroipa’s red card.

With Ghana reeling, Bance missed two more chances in extra time

before another effort was stopped on the line by defender Harrison

Afful, who crouched to use his knees to somehow deflect a goalbound

volley up and over the bar and to safety.

Gyan missed with a header in the 119th and soon after Pitroipa

was red-carded in the final minutes of the pulsating and

nerve-racking semifinal, which still had time for Bance to see a

shot deflected away in the last act of open play before the

shootout.