“I am a battler, a striker who always gives 100 per cent, and puts in energy to defending as well as going forward,” thus said Aristide Bance after the apogee of his career; a scintillating all-round centre-forward performance against Ghana in Wednesday’s semi-final. In many ways, Bance’s self-assessment contains all the words that can be attributed to this valorous Burkina Faso side.
Attribute 1: Battle. Football is like a war, there are no winners, just survivors. In stand-in captain Charles Kabore, who has assumed captaincy after the demotion of Moumouni Dagano to the bench, Florent Rouamba and Djakaridja Kone they have had trusted, fearsome foot soldiers who have offered the hybrid of destruction and control. Despite missing the first game due to suspension, Kabore has completed 157 passes in opposition territory – more than any other player in the competition.
Attribute 2: Defending. Burkina Faso, with only one win in their 5 games over the course of 90 minutes, haven’t delivered the seat-squirming performances for future opponents, but they have got this far simply by being hard to beat – akin to Paraguay side that reached the 2011 Copa America final with five consecutive draws. Burkina Faso haven’t conceded in 453 minutes from open play, since Emmanuel Emenike’s goal in the 57th minute of the opening game. Overall, the only goal they’ve conceded since that opening game came via a harshly-awarded penalty in the semi-final that was converted by Mubarak Wakaso.