Football always presents surprises. One of the biggest surprises that happened in the 21st century was the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations tournament when a team of rookies became champions.
In organizing the event, CAF entrusted South Africa to hold the 2013 AFCON in its country.
This time, Nigeria, gave a big surprise because they came out as the champion after defeating the Burkina Faso, 1-0 in the final match.
Nigeria’s journey to win the African throne was not easy as they had to go through the qualifying round. Nigeria was included in a Group that had Burkina Faso, Zambia and Ethiopia.
However, coming as the underdog team’s predicate, the Nigeria national team played carefreely and seemed relaxed when facing their opponents. This was proven through the opening match against Burkina Faso. It ended 1-1.
In the second match, Nigeria again impressed the eyes of football lovers. Troops of the “land of oil” were able to withstand a 1-1 draw against Zambia which was strengthened by famous names such as Christopher Katongo, Rainsford Kalaba and Kennedy Mweene.
After two glorious matches, Nigeria managed to beat Ethiopia in the final group match.
Five points were enough to make Vincent Enyeama and friends advanced to the quarter-finals as group runners-up under Burkina Faso who also packed five points.
In the quarterfinals, Nigeria faced Cote d’Ivoire, the favourites of the competition. Elephants, reinforced by famous names like Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Cheikh Tiote, Salomon Kalou, Gervinho and Didier Zokora were tipped to win. Goals from Emmanuel Emenike and Sunday Mba was enough to get rid of Cote d’Ivoire 2-1.
This suddenly became the first surprise made by Nigeria at the tournament. Their win over Cote d’Ivoire, made the public surprised. This further made Nigeria was no longer underestimated in the competition.
In the semi-finals, Nigeria then faced Mali, another dark horse team with a high goal record. The Malians, were strengthened by Seydou Keita.
In the semi-finals, both teams played relaxed. Nigeria prevailed 4-1.
Nigeria again met Burkina Faso in the final.
But the truth is: the game was flowing and interesting. Both teams reciprocated attacks. Although at the beginning of the match the Stallions dominated and bombarded the Super Eagles defense with attacks, Nigeria appeared powerful and was able to block any threat given by the host.
Midfielder Sunday Mba popped up with a beautiful goal to put Nigeria in the lead, the strength of Nigeria was proven. The 1-0 score lasted until the referee blew a long whistle.
Suddenly Nigeria players and coaches ran to the middle of the field as joy, and sorrow became one in the stadium. Young Playmaker, Sunday Mba couldn’t hide his joy after becoming the saviour for Nigeria.
The third trophy for Nigeria shocked everyone’s predictions. Armed with less popular players such as Ahmed Musa, Godfrey Oboabona, Efe Ambrose, Kenneth Omeruo and Ejike Uzoenyi, Nigeria was surprising Africa and even the world.
Nigeria indeed managed to make new history. They achieved it by applying high pressure football tactics; piling up players in defense, making the opponents frustrated and giving quick counterattacks. This tactic was quite successful when they faced Cote d’ivoire and the Burkina Faso which implemented an attacking strategy.
And all this, of course, thanks to the magic hand of Stephen Keshi, the coach who was a fearless figure.
This history created by Nigeria seemed to give us a message that big names give no guarantee. After all, every success in football cannot be achieved as easily as turning a hand. It takes a struggle and the right strategy so that all the abilities of the players can be optimized and let God do the rest.