Nigeria v Burkina Faso - 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Final

Offshore Drilling, Africa Cup of Nations: Nigeria 1, Burkina Faso 0

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A single moment of brilliance separated the teams on the scoreboard, but the gap in quality was greater. After the match’s initial settling in period, we knew Nigeria were better. Their superior quality on the ball gave them more promise in attack. As the first half unfolded, the favorites started enjoying large advantages in possession.

Those advantages eventually allowed midfielder Sunday Mba — a 24-year-old midfielder who’s never played outside of native country — to break through, scoring the 40th minute goal that downed Burkina Faso and gave the Super Eagles their third African title, 1-0.

Three Mba touches won the Cup for Nigeria. Trying to settle after poor first touch, Mba (right) poked the ball into over an onrushing Mohamed Koffi and into the penalty area with his right foot before getting a shot off with his left. The ball didn’t hit the ground. Volleying a shot toward the right post before Bakary Koné closed him down, the Nigeria-based midfielder gave the Super Eagles the only goal they’d need. Mba put his name in the history books as the man who reclaimed the title.

That title had been in others’ hands for 19 years. For all the acclaim the Super Eagles have received as a result of being a near-perpetual World Cup qualifier, Nigeria had failed to live up to their reputation at home. With this win, the team turns back the clock, winning their first major title since Jay Jay Okocha and Sunday Oliseh were patrolling the midfield.

Another name on that 1994 team was defender Stephen Keshi, the man who coached Nigeria on Sunday. While Mba may have been the man of the moment in Johannesburg, Keshi was the story of the tournament. Much maligned at home for declining to call in veteran stars Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Peter Odemwingie, Obafemi Martins, and Taye Taiwo, Keshi put his coaching livelihood on the line by wagering a house cleaning would restore some of the Nigerians’ spirit – a pride that had lacking during a 2010 World Cup disappointment and failure to qualify for the 2012 Cup of Nations.

Electing to play a younger, more balanced, and more cohesive team, Keshi saw his gamble vindicated when the Super Eagles ousted tournament favorites Cote d’Ivoire last Sunday. With their 4-1 win over Mali on Wednesday, Keshi’s team got their chance to make history. From the moment Mba’s shot crossed Burkina Faso’s goal line, there was little doubt the Nigerians would have their breakthrough.

source: Getty ImagesMan of the Match: Sunday Mba’s individual effort takes this award, but take that moment away and Burkina Fasi’s Jonathan Pitroipa (right) would have won the award, just deserts for a player who was clearly this tournament’s best. On Sunday, he was the Stallions’ one bright spot in attack, his skill on the ball creating a number of near-opportunities for the underdogs. Whether playing through the middle or back in his customary wide position, he was the only player that troubled the Nigerians.

From the tournament’s outset it was clear: It was time for Pitroipa to step up. To this point in his international career, the Rennes star had failed to replicate his club form for country. As one of the Stallions’ few elite talents, Burkina Faso was only going to go as far as Pitroipa took them.

With a breakthrough performance, the 26-year-old put that criticism behind him. Seeing his red card suspension overturned before the final, Pitroipa nearly completed the first-time finalists’ Cinderella story. With a little more help from his teammates, he might have done it.

Threesome of knowledge: What we learned

Not all sacred cows shouldn’t be worshipped – Nigeria’s diminishing results gave Keshi reason to show his icons the door, but the Super Eagles had to hit rock bottom before somebody (and really, only a few people) saw the light. Other countries with iconic burdens should look to the 2011 Not-So-Super Eagles as a lesson. You should act before you’re forced to do so.

Here in the States, we’re having a debate about Carlos Bocanegra. Fairly or not, people are also starting to whisper about Tim Howard. Italy had to fall flat in 2010, while England’s just recently started moving on from their almost golden generation. These debates happen all over the world.

The lesson to draw from Nigeria: Sometimes moving on doesn’t necessarily mean moving down. Teams get scared that moving the Bocanegras, Cannavaros, and Gerrards of the world aside represents a one-step back, two-step forward scenario, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes the difference in talent doesn’t match the gap in reputation. And reputations are only earned by playing.

Sometimes, you have to take a chance.

Oh these cagey, cagey finals – Burkina Faso wasn’t bad, but Nigeria was a much better team, just as Spain was a much better team than the Netherlands in South Africa. Both games ended 1-0 mostly because of the styles the teams employed. When the difference in reward between winning and losing is at its greatest, it’s no surprise teams become risk averse.

Mexico came out cagey and almost got burned in the last Gold Cup final. Japan beat Australia 1-0 in extra time of the last Asian confederation final. Only Uruguay (2011 Copa America) and Spain (Euro 2012) took recent finals by the horns, though Spain’s 2008 European title was also a 1-0.

There’ve only been three goals in the last five Cup of Nations finals, but that’s not all Africa. Games with these stakes usually produce cagey soccer.

source: Getty ImagesNot every talent plays in Europe – Of course, nobody thinks Europe has a monopoly on world soccer’s talent, but in an age of YouTube, internet streams, and blogs about everything, there is a sense that there are no undiscovered talents, only neglected ones.

Sunday’s final dispelled that notion. The Man of the Match is still playing in the Nigerian league. Godfrey Oboabona (right), one of Nigeria’s central defenders, also plays in his domestic league, while Burkina Faso’s impact substitute, Willy Sanou, is playing in the second division of Japanese soccer.

Those stories might not get people watching Morocco 2015, but it is a reminder that good soccer exists beyond our usual haunts. Tournaments like Copa America, Asian Cup, Cup of Nations and even our own Gold Cup are great showcases for it.

And if you’re lucky, some of that soccer will involve something distinct to that corner of the world. Like vuvuzelas. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

Packaged for takeaway

  • Mba’s goal wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Victor Moses. The Chelsea attacker’s skill during a 1-on-3 produced the shot that was blocked out to Mba.
  • Burkina Faso played a 4-2-3-1 formation. Nigeria stayed with their 4-3-3, but electing not to press high during the early portion of the match, the defensive shape folded into a 4-1-4-1 through most of the first half. Rather than pressure Burkina Faso’s defense, Moses and Brown Ideye, the wingers at the onset, played very deep in Keshi’s initial base setup.
  • Sanou came closest to a Burkina Faso goal. A blast along the ground from 18 yards to the right of goal forced goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama to palm the ball wide of the far post.
  • The referee mistakenly awarded Nigeria a goal kick on Sanou’s shot, meaning Burkina Faso finished their only Cup of Nations final without a shot on goal.
  • The win qualifies Nigeria for this summer’s Confederations Cup. They’ll be grouped with Spain, Uruguay, and Tahiti.

L.A. Galaxy’s Keane retires from Republic of Ireland duty

DUBLIN, IRELAND - OCTOBER 11:  Robbie Keane of Republic of Ireland applauds the fans during the EURO 2016 Qualifier match between Republic of Ireland and Gibraltar at Aviva Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Dublin, Ireland.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Robbie Keane is ending a big chapter in his career.

Fear not, Galaxy fans, the 36-year-old living L.A. legend isn’t calling it quits on club soccer, but Keane is done with representing the Republic of Ireland.

Keane will play one more game for the Boys in Green, a friendly against Oman next week, before leaving the Republic to qualify for the World Cup without him.

[ MORE: Yedlin, Newcastle make it official ]

In a sprawling and understandably emotional — if not moving — statement, Keane says he isn’t going to stop playing for his club anytime soon, and that he hardly dreamed he’d get to this point.

No player has been capped (145) or scored (67) as many times for Ireland than Keane.

WATCH: DeAndre Yedlin says hello to Newcastle United

SANTA CLARA, CA - JUNE 03:  DeAndre Yedlin #2 of United States and Juan Cuadrado #11 of Colombia go for the ball during the 2016 Copa America Centenario Group match between the United States and Colombia at Levi's Stadium on June 3, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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USMNT star DeAndre Yedlin has sealed a permanent move to St. James Park, as Newcastle United has bought the former Sunderland player from Tottenham Hotspur.

Yedlin, 23, will continue his defensive education on a five-year deal under a man who knows how to teach: Rafa Benitez.

[ MORE: Premier League transfer needs ]

The right back was a pivotal part of Sunderland’s survival in the Premier League last season, which coincidentally sent Newcastle down to the Championship.

With Daryl Janmaat off to Watford, Yedlin allows Newcastle to use versatile Vurnon Anita in other roles.

Here’s what Yedlin had to say about the switch to the other side of Northeast England:

“Newcastle is such a big and historic club, and I’m excited to have the honour of playing for them. Hopefully I can do great things here,” said Yedlin.

“I’m excited to learn under Rafa Benitez as well. He has an amazing résumé and I know he will help improve me a lot.

“I can’t wait to get started.”

Oddly enough, as U.S. hopeful Lynden Gooch gets playing town across town at Premier League outfit Sunderland, the last American to play for the Magpies was Oguchi “Gooch” Onyewu.

With club season open, PST assesses the Top 15 USMNT prospects under 23

SHENZHEN, CHINA - JULY 28:  Christian Pulisic of Borussia Dortmund in action during the 2016 International Champions Cup match between Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund at Shenzhen Universiade Stadium on July 28, 2016 in Shenzhen, China.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
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Friday brings us the beginning of the Bundesliga season, meaning every major league will have started its season.

There are American players throughout Europe worth watching, many of them well-established with their clubs. We know plenty of Danny Williams at Reading, of Fabian Johnson at Borussia Monchengladbach, and Geoff Cameron at Stoke City.

[ MORE: Yedlin, Newcastle make it official ]

But what about the young crowd, the ones we know a bit less about? Let’s call the group Americans under the age of 23, with 10 caps or less. We quizzed our ProSoccerTalk staff, weighted the rankings according to power, and wound up with 15 names from MLS to the PL.

Players were given one point for each mention, and a corresponding value to whether they were ranked first (10 points) or tenth (1 point) by a given writer.

PST’s Top 15 USMNT prospects

15. Jerome Kiesewetter, Fortuna Dusseldorf (1)

The twice-capped forward has six goals in 16 appearances for the U-23 side, and just moved to a new 2.Bundesliga home.

14. Joe Gyau, Borussia Dortmund (1)

The 23-year-old was about as exciting a prospect as any when he tore his meniscus against Ecuador. Now, he’s just getting back on the pitch and a loan may be on the cards.

13. Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew (3)

Of players aged 23 or younger, only one has had a better overall season than Trapp. The 23-year-old just fits on our list, and needs to find another level, but he’s going to be solid at worst.

12. Walker Zimmerman, FC Dallas (4)

The seventh-overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, the big Georgian has been outstanding this season.

11. Erik Palmer-Brown, Sporting KC/Porto B (5)

It’s easy to forget about EPB, the 6-foot-1 center back who left SKC on loan in February, but he’s gone 90 minutes in every match since making his Porto B debut in March. Juventus bid $1 million for Palmer-Brown when he was still 16, and they know a thing or two about scouting kids.

10. Rubio Rubin, FC Utrecht (6)

The 20-year-old started Utrecht’s first two matches of the season as a center forward after foot surgery cost him much of 2015-16. No one should ignore his 3 goal, 6 assist season the previous season.

Emerson Hyndman, afcb.co.uk
Emerson Hyndman, afcb.co.uk

9. Emerson Hyndman, AFC Bournemouth (12)

The 20-year-old just moved to the Premier League, and has yet to debut after playing out his contract with Fulham in hopes of greener pastures.

8. Matt Miazga, Chelsea (20)

One decent match followed by a bad half; That’s all we’ve seen from Miazga since leaving the New York Red Bulls for Chelsea last January. A loan seems likely.

7. Ethan Horvath, Molde (22)

The 20-year-old is a full-time ‘keeper with Europa League experience. He should get his chance to impress at the USMNT level, sooner rather than later.

6. Gedion Zelalem, Arsenal (27)

Still hoping for an Arsenal breakthrough, the 19-year-old made 28 appearances on loan for Rangers last season.

5. Lynden Gooch, Sunderland (33)

Gooch drew raves for his work with the Black Cats U-21 team, and has earned playing time under new manager David Moyes. One to watch, and contracted at the Stadium of Light through 2018-19.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Lynden Gooch of Sunderland challenges David Silva of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Sunderland at Etihad Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – AUGUST 13: Lynden Gooch of Sunderland challenges David Silva. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

4. Julian Green, Bayern Munich (37)

With a new lease on life under Carlo Ancelotti, could be set for a breakthrough season.

3. Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders (41)

There’s a lot of hope for the striker, who is getting the professional refinement he needs at the MLS level. If he sorts out his left foot, he could be a lethal piece of the USMNT future.

2. Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tottenham Hotspur (44)

A year ago, he told Joe Prince-Wright that he had added confidence from captaining Spurs’ U-21 side. He’s staying with Mauricio Pochettino‘s First Team this season, and spent the first two matches as an unused sub.

1. Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund (55)

We don’t have to really say anything, do we? The 17-year-old Pennsylvania kid has made an impact at one of the biggest clubs in the world, and could be set for a loan now that BVB has added Mario Gotze, Andre Schurrle, and Ousmane Dembele.

Transfer needs for Premier League teams

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23:  Anthony Martial of Manchester United and Jose Fonte of Southampton compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Southampton at Old Trafford on January 23, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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We are one week away from the transfer window slamming shut on Premier League clubs, some of whom have a lot of glaring holes.

Others? Not-so-much, but all 20 teams certainly have areas their managers would love to see strengthened for the other 36 games of this grueling season.

[ MORE: Schweinsteiger to MLS? ]

It’s hard for some teams to assess at this point, with players coming off busy summers, and adapting to new leagues, coaches and roles. Some teams, like Hull City, are off to a dream start but surely also no illusions. Others, like Arsenal, know things aren’t nearly as bad as they seem after a 1-point start to the campaign.

Although things are indeed bad. Just not relegation bad.

Let’s wait no more…

Arsenal — I’m starting to consider that Arsene Wenger‘s defensive preparations involve using a club to whack at his defenders’ bodies. Depth in the back is key, and Arsenal sure could use that high-profile, effective forward they’ve needed for a long, long while.

Bournemouth — In a pretty good spot now, but an added defender capable of playing any position on the back line is not a bad idea.

Burnley — While the addition of Steven Defour is fantastic, another weapon like him wouldn’t be bad. Honestly, it’s too bad Danny Ings didn’t stick around!

Chelsea — Defensive depth in the center park would be useful. The long time link with Napoli center back Koulibaly isn’t going anywhere.

[ MORE: Jack Harrison in his own words ]

Crystal Palace — All set on target strikers, someone to run off Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham could be useful.

Everton — What’s needed is much different from what would be appreciated, and Ronald Koeman wouldn’t mind an upgrade at goalkeeper, insurance at center back, and depth at striker.

Hull City — Name a position, and Hull could likely use an addition. We’re not trying to be mean, it’s simply the name of the game for the 2-0 Tigers.

Leicester City — With Europe on the horizon, any depth would be useful for the Foxes. Another outside back or a contract extension for Danny Simpson wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Liverpool —  We forget how many players have yet to debut for the Reds, who really don’t have to add at this point (but may, perhaps at left back).

Manchester City — Pep Guardiola has shaken up everything, so who knows what else could happen? We suspect offloading, if anything.

Manchester United — Jose Mourinho would like to strengthen his center back depth, and signing Jose Fonte would certainly help United contend in both England and Europe.

Middlesbrough — The Boro have added plenty this offseason, and might just be done. Though with Jordan Rhodes looking increasingly likely to leave, another forward isn’t a bad idea.

Southampton — An attacking center mid and striker depth will be important, as will confidence in its center back corps if and when Jose Fonte leaves town.

Sunderland — Keeping Lamine Kone would be as big a victory as any player David Moyes could add, though the Black Cats need help almost everywhere. Center back is the biggest concern, Kone or not.

Stoke City — Center back help is needed here, too, but let’s not forget that Geoff Cameron is indispensable and yet to debut.

Swansea City — See above, as Ashley Williams‘ move to Everton really hit Francesco Guidolin‘s team where it was already thin.

Tottenham Hotspur — Depth moves here, perhaps most likely in the midfield.

[ MORE: West Ham to add Swiss mid? ]

Watford — Likely done, though another defender wouldn’t hurt.

West Bromwich Albion — Tony Pulis has made a couple very good pick-ups in underrated QPR man Matty Phillips and Everton loanee Brendan Galloway. That said, he’d love to get better at every spot on the pitch. Anything is possible if the bosses open their wallets.

West Ham United — A striker would help with injuries to Andy Carroll and Andre Ayew. Otherwise, the Irons are sneaky deep everywhere.