Nelspruit – Burkina Faso coach Paul Put was ecstatic after his side advanced to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) semi-finals with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Togo at Mbomebela Stadium on Sunday night.
The match was extended to extra time, with Jonathan Pitroipa's superbly taken header in the 105th minute settling what had been an edgy and physical all-west African encounter.
Burkina Faso will now face Ghana in a last-four match at Mbombela Stadium on Wednesday, having reached the semi-finals of the tournament for only the second time in their history – they also achieved this back in 1998 when they hosted the tournament.
“Congratulations to my players and a befitting birthday present to our president (Blaise Compaore, who has ruled the country since 1987). It's like a never-ending story,” Put said.
The Belgian admitted it had been a tough affair against their neighbours, but he believed it was his players' hard work and dedication at training that saw them through.
“I'm the happiest coach of this tournament now as all we worked on in training came to play.
“There were always doubts when we got to extra time, but the players were very patient and we got more possession of the ball than Togo.
“Physically, they surprised me with what they gave today, but the will was there and so too now the reward.”
Meanwhile, there was heartache for Togo, who had hoped to honour the deaths of three of their compatriots who were killed in a bus attack at the 2010 Afcon tournament in Angola.
Coach Didier Six, however, tried to focus on the positives of what was a brave showing in South Africa, and was hoping to build on his side's success.
“At this stage of the competition, you can't underrate any team,” said the Frenchman.
“We made history to reach the quarterfinals. We were disappointed to lose, but overall this young team with so many qualities made it for the first time in our history to the quarterfinal. We will continue to work for the future.” – Sapa