Stallions believe they can conquer

JOHANNESBURG - They might have confounded expectations by reaching the final, but the mood in the Burkina Faso camp does not suggest the surprise package of the tournament feel they have already achieved the best they possibly can.

One man who strongly believes the Stallions have not yet outstretched their full potential is their coach Paul Put, who has boldly stated that nothing can stop his men against Stephen Keshi’s Nigeria in the African Nations Cup final Sunday.

“We are looking forward to doing well in our first ever final,” Put told reporters ahead of this evening’s clash at the National Stadium. I believe in my players. I’ve seen so much commitment from them on the field from day one and I believe we will do well in the final.”

The Stallions, who were impressive throughout the tournament, are in the final thanks in the mainly to their impressive penalty shootout semi-final victory over the much-fancied Ghana on Wednesday.

Put, however, has urged his players to stay focused.

“We need to put the foot on the ground,” he said. “No one expected us to get this far…even people back home never expected us to reach the final. But we need to focus on the job we need to do against Nigeria. They will be tough.

“They are currently on from after their victory against Mali (in the semi-finals) on Wednesday, but like I said, I believe in my players. They are committed and we are looking forward to our first final appearance.”

Put’s confidence in his team’s ability has received resounding praise from the Burkinabe captain Charles Kabore, who hailed the Belgian for believing in the players when they probably did not see themselves being just 90 minutes away from glory.

“When we arrived here in South Africa, the only person who believed in us was the coach,” Kabore said of Put, who interestingly was once banned for match-fixing in his native Belgium.

The 24-year-old Kabore, a midfielder with French side Olympique Marseille, added: “As for the players, we were planning to give it our best shot but I would like to thank the coach for the trust he put in us and thank the people of Burkina Faso who have supported us through this tournament.”

The furthest Burkina Faso have gone was in 1998 when they reached the semi-finals as hosts. But by the end of this evening this current crop of Stallions can make history by winning the African Nations Cup for the first time. - Enock Muchinjo in South Africa

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