Burkina Faso are in the finals of the African Cup of Nations — and one win short of one of those incredible football stories that go down in history.
Here’s a quick roundup of some things you should know about the country. And for those who support the underdogs, knowing these should be a must.
First and foremost, where is Burkina Faso?
In West Africa, land-locked and surrounded by Togo, Ghana, Niger, Benin and Ivory Coast. It’s capital city is Ouagadougou. Yes, Ouagadougou. Now say that ten times.
Extra information: they speak French and Moore.
Who is their star player?
Jonathan Pitroipa, the man who was shown a controversial red card in the semifinal against Ghana. However, the card has been rescinded after an appeal and he will be available to play the final. He has two goals for them, including the 105th minute winner against Togo in the quarters.
He plays for Stade Rennais in France.
Who is their manager?
56-year-old Belgian Paul Put. He was previously coach of Gambia. Club-wise, he has managed Lokeren, Geel and Lierse in Belgium
Oh, and just another small thing: he was banned for three years by the Belgian FA for allegedly being part of a match-fixing scandal.
How did they reach the finals?
It wasn’t easy. They had champions Zambia, Ethiopia and Nigeria in their group. After drawing against Nigeria, they beat Ethiopia 4-0 (mostly with ten men on the pitch) and then drew 0-0 against Zambia (without star striker Alain Traore).
In the quarters, they beat Togo in extra-time. In the semis they met a star-studded Ghana team and, despite losing Pitroipa to a red card, managed to beat them 3-2 on penalties. This, despite being subject to some atrocious refereeing. The referee has been banned subsequently. Stunning stuff, in the least.
If they’re so good, then why are they underdogs?
Because, and get ready for this: Burkina Faso had not won 17 African Cup matches in a row, losing the last four before the current edition started.