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Johannesburg – Burkina Faso coach Paul Put believes the best team won on the night, after Nigeria claimed their third Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) title at the expense of his underdog side, who ended a dream run at the continental tournament.
Sunday Mba scored a first-half left-footed volley as the Super Eagles secured a 1-0 victory at the National Stadium on Sunday evening.
“We saw a great Nigeria, we know they have great players and they have also been growing in the tournament, so I think they deserve to be the winners of this tournament,” Put said.
“We knew the progress Nigeria showed from their first game to their last game.
“Burkina Faso have also been showing more maturity every game. We may have shown Nigeria too much respect in the first half, but it's football.
“In the second half we did everything possible (to equalise) but we were a little bit unlucky, so we have to be honest. You have to be great when you lose and you have to be small when you win.”
The Stallions fell short of what would have been a seemingly unlikely triumph in their first continental final but Put was elated with the team's performance in South Africa.
“My congratulations to Nigeria and also to my players,” he said.
“I am very proud of what they have proved in this tournament. I can only say that I'm very proud and happy for my players.
“I saw a team out there that fought to the last minute with the volume (of players) that we have, so I am very proud and the whole country can be proud of these players.”
Put was pleased to see midfielder Jonathan Pitroipa – who was sent off during the semi-finals for simulation but had his red card rescinded and was allowed to play in the final – walk away with the Player of the Tournament award, but admitted he was more satisfied with the entire team's showing at the continental spectacle.
“I am happy for Pitroipa, but I'm happier for the team because they were playing in a great tournament.
“Everybody participating in this tournament (was important). Of course Pitroipa we know is important, but I have to congratulate all the players because one is more technical than the other, but everyone has been doing a great job.”
Shifting his attention to the Burkinabe's 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, which resumes next month, Put said he and his team would do everything possible to make it to Brazil.
Burkina Faso return home after enjoying a terrific Afcon run to face the reality that their chances of playing at next year's World Cup are remote.
The Stallions made a poor start to Group E qualifying, drawing 0-0 at home to Congo Brazzaville, before going down 1-0 away to Gabon, and the lone point they collected was taken away after Fifa ruled that they fielded an ineligible player.
With two of the six rounds played, Put's side find themselves at the bottom of the table with no points and a minus-four goal difference, while Congo have six points and Niger and Gabon have three each.
“Nobody was expecting to bring this result home, so I think the way we have been playing has been very good,” Put said.
“We still have a long way to go, we have to do everything possible, but I think it's time now to talk with the (Burkina Faso) government and football federation because we may not think that we have arrived, but we have done a great job.” – Sapa