In a rematch of January's Group C opener, Nigeria and Burkina Faso will face off for all the marbles in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations final on Sunday in South Africa.Â
The two sides fought to a 1-1 draw in their previous match, with Burkina Faso's Alain Traore turning out a heroic effort, scoring in the 94th minute to level the match and salvage a point for his squad. The draw highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of both sides, but also offered a preview of what's to come this weekend.
Here we'll take a look at the biggest keys for Sunday's final, breaking down what each nation must do in order to come away champions of Africa.
Burkina Faso: Defend at All Costs
It was Les Etalons' defense that kept them alive during their group stage showdown with Nigeria last month, and it will be their defense that leads them if they are to win on Sunday.
Individually, Burkina Faso will need talented defender Bakary Kone to step up his game and shut down the Nigerians when they mount an attack. The 24-year-old is a superb defender, and an excellent tackler. If he can play with poise and lead his fellow defenders on Sunday, a clean sheet isn't out of the question.
Nigeria boasts a high-powered attack, but they were substantially subdued in the Group C opener against Kone and company.
Burkina Faso must recreate a similar scenario in Sunday's final, limiting the Super Eagles' chances in hopes of coming away with a narrow 1-0 victory, or perhaps winning on penalties like it did in the semifinals. Either way, a low-scoring match would favor Burkina Faso, a team that's only surrendered two goals in five matches at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
Nigeria: Score Early and Seize Momentum
The Nigerians will need to score early in the first half against Burkina Faso in order to seize momentum of the match and to break the wills of their opponents.
Although Les Etalons possess the talent to recover from conceding early, they aren't suited for a comeback quite like Nigeria, which boasts tremendous firepower up front with Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike. The two supremely talented forwards have combined for six goals at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations and are sure to deliver again on Sunday.
The good news for Nigeria is that their offense is gaining momentum at the perfect time.
The Super Eagles have scored 10 goals in five matches in South Africa over the past few weeks, but have scored six in their last two knockout stage wins over Ivory Coast and Mali. In Wednesday's 4-1 semifinal win over Mali, Nigeria scored four goals, including three in the first half to put the match away early.
If Nigeria can create and ultimately capitalize on some more first half chances on Sunday, they can break their opponent's will and ride a comfortable lead to the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations title.
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