Burkina Faso oust champions Zambia

Burkina Faso sprung a major surprise at the African Nations Cup when they drew 0-0 with holders Zambia on Tuesday to reach the quarterfinals along with Nigeria who beat Ethiopia 2-0.

Burkina Faso topped the Group C standings above Nigeria on goal difference but Zambia crashed out following dramatic conclusions to the final round of matches.

Nigeria overcame strong resistance from Ethiopia in Rustenburg but two late penalties from Victor Moses set up a heavyweight clash with the Ivory Coast in Sunday’s quarterfinals. Burkina Faso will play Tunisia or Togo, ensuring at least one surprise semifinalist.

Zambia's failure to beat Burkina Faso meant they suffered the ignominy of being the first holders to go out in the first round in defence of their title since Algeria in 1992.

Burkina Faso went into Tuesday’s final group matches with a two-point advantage and quickly set about building a defensive fortress to keep Zambia at bay and seal a place in last eight for the first time since 1998.  But the holders were still in contention as long as Nigeria were being held goalless by Ethiopia who had not been expected to put up such stout resistance.

Had both matches ended goalless, Zambia and Nigeria would have finished tied on points, goal difference and goals scored and would have had to be separated by their disciplinary records.

The scenario of a last-eight place being determined by a countback of yellow cards or toss of a coin was alive until Moses converted an 80th-minute penalty to put Nigeria ahead.

That meant Zambia had to go for the win against Burkina Faso to join them in the top two places and they threw everything forward to force a breakthrough.

They had been restricted to a single real chance in the 17th minute squandered by Collins Mbesuma.
Central defenders Stopilla Sunzu and Hichani Himoonde joined three strikers up front to create a siege on the Burkina goal but the Burkinabe defended for all they were worth.

Centre-back Bakary Kone suffered a cut to the mouth in a clash of heads and was bleeding in the final exchanges.  Coach Paul Put called it a historic night for Burkina Faso football. “We had double motivation being close to qualification and playing against the champions. I told the players this chance might never come again,” he told reporters.

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