\n In a major blow to Burkina Faso, Jonathan Pitroipa, at right, has been ruled out of the rest of the Africa Cup of Nations because of an injury.
\nBy Nick Said
Burkina Faso were certainly not expected to top their 2017 African Nations Cup Group A amid heavy competition from hosts Gabon and fancied Cameroon, but have proven they could be a tough nut to crack as they seek to repeat their heroics of four years ago.
The Burkinabe were shock finalists in South Africa in 2013 before losing to Nigeria, and there must be a sense now that they could go one better than that.
They produced a solid, professional display in defeating Guinea-Bissau 2-0 in their final pool match on Sunday and now await Monday’s Group B games to see who their quarterfinal opponents will be.
It is likely they have a date with Tunisia, though Algeria and Zimbabwe are still in the running.
Goals from Prejuce Nakoulma and Bertrand Traore gave the Burkinabe the victory, a first for coach Paulo Duarte with the team at the Nations Cup finals at the eighth attempt.
He also led them in the 2010 and 2012 tournaments, and will also feel he did much of the spade-work for their 2013 final run when the side was led by the Belgian Paul Put.
Guinea-Bissau may have finished bottom of their pool but can hold their heads up high in a maiden Nations Cup finals appearance.
They drew 1-1 with Gabon, let a lead slip against Cameroon and then appeared to run out of steam in their last match against Burkina Faso.
But the tournament should serve as a springboard for future success for the country, as the 2013 finals did for Cape Verde. The next target for coach Baciro Candé will be to keep his mostly European-based players interested in playing for the side with the 2019 Nations Cup qualifiers to start in June.
That tournament will be played in Cameroon and for Guinea-Bissau to show real progress, they must qualify for those finals too, proving that their appearance in Gabon was not in flash in the pan.