NIGERIA ended a 19-year wait to regain the African Nations Cup on Sunday after a stunning goal from winger Sunday Mba gave them a deserved 1-0 win over Burkina Faso in the final at the National Stadium in Johannesburg.
The 24-year-old, who also scored the winner in the 2-1 quarterfinal win over Côte d’Ivoire, struck after 40 minutes when the ball bounced off a defender and into his path as he advanced on goal.
Mba flicked it over defender Mohamed Koffi and then reacted quickest to score with his other foot low into the corner of goalkeeper Daouda Diakite’s net for a contender for goal of the tournament.
Underdogs Burkina Faso, in the final for the first time, seemed overawed by the occasion, which was played out in front of a near-90,000 capacity crowd, until the last 20 minutes when they threw everything forward in search of an equaliser.
But Nigeria — with John Obi Mikel superb in midfield and Efe Ambrose, Kenneth Omeruo and Elderson Echiejile dominant at the back — always held the upper hand.
The victory meant Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi became only the second man to win the tournament as both player and coach. It was a third African title for Nigeria and their first since Keshi captained them to victory in 1994.
Earlier, former Bafana Bafana player Mark Fish — a member of the South African side that won the 1996 African Nations Cup — began the closing ceremony by saying a few words before the start of the event.
Children ran onto the field that was covered by a rainbow-coloured canvas and joined two massive circles.
A mass of performers entered the stadium, forming the outline of the African continent to the cheers of the crowd. Two small taxi structures also appeared and passed along a specially created road while an urban African scene was created.
Performers in road workers’ outfits danced next to traffic lights, behind a skyline of a city. The dancers then made a new formation and the South African flag could be seen along with the letters "SA".
Later, two jets flew over the stadium.
The ceremony, which lasted a little more than 40 minutes, concluded with performers making a large circle around the flags of Nigeria and Burkina Faso and a fireworks display.
Reuters and Sapa