Burkina Faso 1-1 Ghana: Burkina Faso dominate and win the game on penalties

February 7, 2013

The line-ups after Paintsil's early injury - Ghana's attacking three sometimes rotated

Burkina Faso upset the odds to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations final.

Paul Put made various chances  to the side which beat Togo – in came Artistide Bancé upfront, and Prejuce Nakoulma on the right. With two holding midfielders, Charles Kabore became the number ten and Jonathan Pitroipa moved left

James Appiah made one change – Wakaso Murabak replaced Albert Adomah.

Ghana went ahead but Burkina Faso deserved the win – they pressed well, passed smoothly and Bancé was magnificent upfront.

Overall pattern

First, this game was played at a much higher tempo than the first semi-final, with pressing from both sides forcing each other to pass quicker and try to move the ball forward immediately.

However, it’s important to note the atrocious pitch that made neat, intricate passing difficult for both sides. And while controversial decisions from officials are rarely discussed on this website, it’s difficult to ignore a refereeing performance so bad that the referee was suspended by CAF after the match.

Ghana change

One of the key events was the early injury suffered by Ghana right-back John Paintsil, which forced Appiah into changes that significantly harmed the balance of his side. Appiah obviously felt he didn’t have a back-up right-back capable of replacing Paintsil directly, so instead midfielder Solomon Asante was introduced – this meant Kwadwo Asamoah going to left-back (rather than playing as the number ten) and Harrison Afful moving from right-back to left-back.

The situation ahead of them was fluid – Christian Atsu was usually left-sided, Wakaso Mubarak generally central and Asante on the right, but they did swap around throughout, and the impact of this early change upon Ghana’s harmony must be considered. They went ahead through a Wakaso penalty.

Burkina Faso dominate

Ghana’s early lead was a problem for Burkina Faso. In recent years, Ghana have excelled by playing on the counter-attack, and are at their best when opponents come onto them, leaving spaces at the back. By conceding an early goal and forcing themselves to push men forward, Burkina Faso could have been on the end of a heavy defeat.

Instead, they were extremely intelligent in the way they kept a solid structure while looking for the equaliser. The midfield duo of Djakaridja Koné and Florent Rouamba remained disciplined and protected the defence together, barely breaking forward into attack but allowing the full-backs freedom to overlap. This prevented Ghana breaking through the centre of the pitch.

Burkina Faso attacks

Higher up, Kaboré pulled the strings from his advanced position. He often moved deep into midfield when he found himself tightly marked, exchanging one-twos and ensuring his side dominated the midfield zone. The Burkina Faso attacking four almost acted as a diamond – Kaboré and Bancé coming short, always offering a passing option, and the two wide players attacking towards goal more directly. The link-up play from the central players was excellent and selfless, and Burkina Faso simply passed around Ghanaian pressure at times.

In the early stages, right-winger Nakoulma was the main threat. He stayed high and wide, always stretching the play and offering an option for a long switch of play. Kaboré played him in a couple of times with balls in behind Asamoah, and Nakoulma seemed a likely goalscorer. However, on the other flank Pitroipa drifted inside and caused problems in more central positions – he had an early shout for a penalty, and combined well with Bancé. The front four pressed energetically, forcing Ghana into misplaced passes in defence.

Burkina Faso play out

However, Burkina Faso were excellent at playing out from the back themselves. The particularly impressive thing about this passing was that, in Bancé, they had the option to simply hit long goal-kicks if they wanted – Ghana didn’t really have this option, with the much smaller Asamoah Gyan upfront.

Burkina Faso certainly used Bancé’s height and hold-up play, but they did it in a clever way. Rather than hitting the ball forward immediately, they’d take advantage of the fact that Ghana only pressed with their front four players, and played out 6 v 4, confidently knocking the ball around until they’d engineered a situation where a player had freedom to play a forward pass. Then, they’d play a delicate chipped pass to Bancé, who would bring the ball down, lay it off, and then moved into position.


This was as good a centre-forward display as you’ll see in international football. Bancé was involved in everything – he sprinted in behind for chances on the counter, he had a header saved on the goal-line from a corner, he could drop deep and encourage the wide players beyond him.

He even showed great defensive ability – at one point rushing back to stop a Ghana counter-attack himself, when most other forwards would have left that to the midfielders.

Ghana threat?

Ghana’s counter-attacking threat was barely obvious, though. They relied on too many long balls to Gyan upfront, typically working the channels, but Burkina Faso generally played the 2 v 1 situation at the back well. That said, Paul Koulibaly is clearly Burkina Faso’s weak link – and twice was fortunate not to cost Burkina Faso a goal. First he tried to play offside in a position when he should have simply stayed with Gyan – the shot was hit wide, and then he lashed out at Gyan inside the penalty box.

Appiah made an early second half change, bringing on Derek Boateng in place of Mohamed Rabiu. There didn’t seem to be any great logic behind this change, and it seemed to further disturb Ghana’s rhythm and harmony. Boateng took too long to get up to the speed of the game, and Burkina Faso’s midfield enjoyed pressing their opposite numbers – in fact, the goal came when Emmanuel Badu was caught in possession, and Bancé finished nicely.

Bancé and Atsu

In fact, Burkina Faso were playing so well that Put only made one change in the entire 120 minutes – and that was through injury, with Mohamed Koffi replaced with Henri Traore. However, this was the one zone Burkina Faso were struggling in – twice Christian Atsu had made superb darts down the line before crossing for Gyan – once, at 1-0, Gyan hit the post. The second time, in the 119th minute, he headed wide.

But with the tactics barely changing in the second half and extra time, Burkina Faso had more goalscoring opportunities. Makoulma had a goal harshly disallowed, Bancé had a shot off the line, another  hit wide following a powerful run on the break, and could have won it in the 120th minute.

By the second half of extra time, the sides were knackered and the tactics were barely noticeable. Burkina Faso triumphed on penalties, with Bancé grabbing the spotlight with his Panenka.


The early Ghana goal meant they sat back and tried to counter-attack, but they didn’t offer anything on the break – partly due to the way Burkina Faso kept their two holders in position at all times. Atsu was the only Ghana player that had a good game, creating four chances – including two golden opportunities for Gyan.

But this was about a fine Burkina Faso display. They pressed energetically, they played direct to Bancé without resorting to aimless balls, and Kaboré’s one-touch play with the two wide players was magnificent. It’s unfortunate that Pitroipa was wrongly booked for a dive and will miss the final, but if they play with his level of cohesion and fluidity, Burkina Faso will defeat Nigeria on Sunday evening.

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