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Nelspruit – There were conflicting feelings going through the mind of Burkina Faso coach Paul Put after his team advanced to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) final.
The Stallions triumphed in a drama-filled west African clash against Ghana at the Mbombela Stadium on Wednesday night, winning the penalty shoot-out 3-2. The match ended 1-1 after 120 minutes.
After the underdogs made it out of a tough Group C, Put and his men had good reason to celebrate.
“In the beginning we should not have qualified, but now we are in the final. I’m very happy with this victory and very happy that we made it to the final,” Put said on Wednesday.
In their seven other appearances at the finals, Burkinabé have been eliminated in the first round on each occasion and have won very few matches. They finished fourth in 1998 when hosting the competition.
But there was a damper on the historic occasion, as the tournament came to an end for the Stallions’ star player, Jonathan Pitroipa.
Having already lost their top scorer, Alain Traore to injury, Burkina will also be without Pitroipa for Sunday’s final against Nigeria.
One of the best players of the tournament, the skilful winger received a second yellow card for an alleged dive just inside the Ghana box, minutes before the final whistle.
Tunisian referee Slim Jedidi had made several controversial calls, with most of them appearing to go against Burkina Faso.
These included a soft penalty for Ghana, the rejection of a penalty claim by the Stallions, a disallowed Stallions goal, and Pitroipa’s dismissal.
“I think the best player of the day was the referee,” said an emotional and sarcastic Put.
“He was at a very great level. I was feeling ashamed; it was very clear that Burkina Faso would not be allowed to reach the final. The second yellow card of Pitroipa was ridiculous.
“I told the players at half-time that we didn’t need the referee to win and pass to the final.” – Sapa