Ghana 0-1 Burkina Faso
Stallions seal third place at AFCON 2017
If the third-place playoff occupies a somewhat unusual position in modern football – arguably the game no team wants to play – it has become all too familiar territory for Ghana.
Eight times the Black Stars have reached the semifinals of the Africa Cup of Nations since their last triumph in 1982; eight times they have fallen short of adding the fifth AFCON crown they crave.
“I am more than unhappy,” bemoaned Ghana coach Avram Grant after his side’s hopes were crushed by a shock 2-0 semifinal defeat to Cameroon.
Admitting it was “not exactly the dream of our lives to play this game,” Grant’s team selection for Saturday’s third-place playoff was perhaps reflective of that disappointment – he made seven changes.
In contrast, Paulo Duarte’s Burkina Faso, who had enjoyed an extra day’s rest, looked eager to overcome their penalty shootout defeat to Egypt and played with the sort of fluency that saw them progress all the way to the final in 2013.
Africa Cup of Nations 2017: The stars on show
Even so, Burkina Faso left it late.
With penalties looming, Stallions forward Alain Traore shaped up to whip a freekick into the box, while Ghana goalkeeper Richard Ofori arranged his defenders anticipating the cross.
A direct effort looked out of the question but Traore had other ideas, going straight for goal and beating Ofori at his far post with sheer pace – sending the Burkinabe contingent of fans into raptures.
Visit CNN.com/football for more AFCON news
It was a goal of the tournament contender, and there was no doubting what it meant: for a nation that had only ever progressed from the group stage twice before, third place in Gabon offers plenty to look forward to as they look to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
READ: Essam El-Hadary, 44, aims to make more history
As for Grant and Ghana, the Cup of Nations jinx endures.