Port Elizabeth, South Africa: A couple of the surprise teams at the Africa Cup of Nations, Burkina Faso and Togo, clash on Sunday with a semi-finals place at stake.
The Stallions of Burkina Faso are making only their second quarter-finals appearance, while Togo have not reached this stage of the competition in six previous attempts.
“I have told my players it’s a big moment — maybe this chance will never come again,” said Belgium-born Burkina Faso coach Paul Put.
“It’s a big achievement to reach this stage. We have drawn mental strength from games against Nigeria and Zambia. We hope for more.”
Burkina Faso reached the last eight without the tournament’s leading scorer, Alain Traore from French club Lorient, who suffered a thigh injury early in the game against Zambia and will play no further part in the tournament.
Put said the team will have to adjust without three-goal Traore, having failed to score without him in the final group game against Zambia last Tuesday.
Jonathan Pitroipa and Aristide Bance have been handed the mantle to help maintain the Stallions’ push.
“I think we should continue with the same confidence and we will see what is going to happen,” Put said.
“Games like these are always difficult because the style of Togo is to be very tough in tackles — they have a lot of physical players.”
Put is aware of the clear and present danger Togo captain and striker Emmanuel Adebayor poses.
Adebayor has been in inspired form, scoring against Algeria and assisting in Serge Gakpe’s goal against Tunisia.
“In Adebayor they have somebody who is very smart. He has a lot of experience and maturity and technically he has everything. It is up to us to find a key against Togo,” admitted the coach.
Besides Adebayor, coach Didier Six could call up additional firepower in the form of Jonathan Ayite and Gakpe.
Although this will be the first meeting of the teams at the Cup of Nations, they have played 15 times with Togo winning five and Burkina Faso four.