Burkina Faso, probably THE story of the last Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa. A performance far beyond the expectations of even the staunchest fan of the West African republic. To be fair to the Burkinabe, until the 2013 edition of the cup, they had very little to sing about, with an unremarkable history, peaking in 1998 with a 4th place finish on home soil, with no World Cup qualification to hang their hat on, as yet.
But all that was to change 2 years ago, where The Stallions were brought onto the World stage in spectacular fashion, blazing their way to the final, taking the scalps of Togo and African heavyweights Ghana en route. There they were beaten in a close fought match in Johannesburg by an experienced Nigerian team, 1-0 but arguably left with more plaudits than any other side gracing the tournament.
Qualification was gained for Burkina Faso without breaking sweat, losing only one game to the eventual Group winners and unbeaten Gabonese. They will meet again on the opening day of the 2015 AFCoN, with following fixtures against host nation Equatorial Guinea and Congo. By no means an easy group, Burkina will still fancy their chances of a Quarter-Final berth, under the attacking play they have become accustomed to under coach Paul Put. Much will depend on the form of Jonathan Pitroipa, scorer of 6 of Burkina’s 8 goals in qualification and winner of 2013’s AFCoN player of the tournament, but elsewhere they have built a strong defence around experienced, quality players such as Paul Koulibaly, Mohammed Koffi and Bakary Kone.
Les Etalos will want to start the tournament well and will enter the fray after the opening ceremony and game against a Gabon side who they were unable to beat in qualification, drawing at home and going down 2-0 to an Aubeyamang double in Libreville. Even if they do end up losing this game, which I fear they could, I think they still posses enough quality to reach the knockout phase of the cup. Equatorial Guinea, even on home soil should prove to be three points in the bag along with Congo. As they are placed on the far easier side of the draw, a Quarter-Final fixture will see them play one of Group B’s teams: Zambia, Tunisia DR Congo or Cape Verde so a semi-final place is not totally out of the question. Hopefully we will once again see the best of Jonathan Pitroipa as much will ride on his goal scoring form again in Equatorial Guinea.