African Nations Cup news

Keshi: We have to prove ourselves

February 10, 2013
By ESPN staff

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has warned his players that reputation will count for nothing when they take on Burkina Faso in the African Nations Cup final.

Stephen Keshi
AssociatedStephen Keshi is cautious about his side's chances of success

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Nigeria are strongly fancied to claim a third continental crown, having succeeded in 1980 and 1994, but Burkina Faso, who defeated Ghana in the semi-finals, have already shown themselves capable of an upset.

Former Nigeria coach Christian Chukwu said that he was praying "that the Eagles will take the match more seriously and not underrate the Stallions otherwise they will be in trouble", and Keshi - part of the triumphant 1994 squad alongside the likes of Jay-Jay Okocha, Sunday Oliseh and Rashidi Yekini - is taking nothing for granted.

"What we have achieved so far will not help us come Sunday - the final is where you have to prove that you are the best team in Africa and worthy of the gold medals," he said, according to AP. "My team is still growing as I am in the building phase. There is a lot of talent at my disposal but you cannot compare this side with the great team of 1994, which I had the honour to captain."

Nigeria remain unsure whether Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike will be fit, with both suffering injuries during the semi-final demolition of Mali.

"I will wait till the last minute," Keshi said. "I can understand the apprehension of the (Nigerian) public over the two players but we must be a little patient, because I know that the two of them want to play in the final and the medical team is working round the clock."

Keshi also said he "applauded the decision" to reverse Burkina Faso star Jonathan Pitroipa's suspension for the final after he was dubiously given a second booking for against Ghana.

He added: "I think it's a good thing because the 90,000-plus people that are coming in to watch tomorrow the game, it's going to be fun for them to watch a good football (match) and having Jonathan in the game and some other players should be entertaining.

"It's not every day that you get to play in a African Cup of Nations final so denying him that without committing any offence, I think, is a little bit tough so I'm happy for him."

Burkina Faso coach Paul Put accepts that his side are the underdogs.

"We respect a lot the team of Nigeria," he said. "They have big players who play at the highest level in Europe."