Nigeria claimed their third African Nations Cup title with a dominant performance over Burkina Faso in Johannesburg.
Sunday Mba fired the Super Eagles ahead with a superb volley five minutes before the break after a period of pressure saw Burkina Faso, competing in their first final, succumb to Stephen Keshi’s side.
Cup of joy: A jubilant Nigeria squad hoist the Africa Cup of Nations trophy aloft for the third time
Always in control: Sunday Mba flicked the ball over a defender with his right, before firing home the only goal of the final with his other foot, sparking gleeful celebrations (below)
Wilfried Sanou came close to levelling for the Stallions midway through the second half but his brief flash of brilliance was extinguished by a top-drawer save by Vincent Enyeama.
It was Nigeria’s first final since 2000 but they were hot favourites ahead of the match against the minnows from west Africa due to their 12-game unbeaten record.
Fancy seeing you again: Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi grabs the Africa Cup of Nations trophy after winning the competition as a player in 1994
Safe hands: Vincent Enyeama clings on despite pressure from Prejuce Nakoulma
Their win means coach Keshi becomes only the second man to win the cup as coach and player, following in the footsteps of Egyptian Mahmoud Al Gohari.
The Super Eagles set their stall out early, with wave after wave of attack which pegged Burkina Faso back into their own half for the majority of the first 45 minutes.
No holds barred: Burkina Faso’s Mady Panandetiguiri clashes with Nigeria keeper Vincent Enyeama
Efe Ambrose had the first chance of the match when he headed over the bar from Victor Moses’ free-kick in the seventh minute before Burkina Faso goalkeeper Daouda Diakite almost made a disastrous mistake moments later.
Diakite came off his line to take a ball above his own defender’s head, only to fluff his take, with Brown Ideye’s resulting weak shot looping over the bar.
Outnumbered: Nigeria’s Victor Moses scraps for possession with Burkina Faso’s Bakary Kone (centre), Mohamed Koffi (back) and Djakaridja Kone (right)
It was a huge let off for Burkina Faso in their first taste of the competition’s final, after they had previously only reached the last four of the tournament in 1998 where they lost to eventual champions Egypt.
However, there was a glimmer of creativity from midfielder Jonathan Pitroipa, who had his red card from the last match against Ghana rescinded, when he made a good run up the right and drew in four Nigeria defenders, only for the resulting corner to be easily neutralised.
At full stretch: Burkina Faso keeper Daouda Diakite repels a Nigeria attack
Nigeria kept up the pressure, Aristide Bance wasting a good chance when his low, drilled 25-yard free-kick flashed just wide of Enyeama’s right post, before Ikechukwu Uche’s turn on edge of box was miscued by the onrushing Ideye.
Burkina Faso were struggling to get out of their own half and Nigeria’s dominance told five minutes before the break, when Mba volleyed past Diakite from the middle of the box.
Holding on: Burkina Faso keeper Diakite saves from Moses
After some good build-up play, Moses’ shot was blocked and looped up to Mba, who plucked the ball from the air to fire the Super Eagles to a deserved lead.
The goal gave the match a much-needed boost, with Burkina Faso increasing their urgency and making a couple of surging runs into the Nigeria box before the half-time whistle.
Concern: Nigeria defender Elderson Echiejile leaves the pitch on a stretcher after sustaining an injury
Nigeria almost doubled their lead two minutes after the break when Moses played in Ideye, who was unable to get enough angle on his strike and flashed it across the face of goal.
Moses then wasted a golden chance to score on the counter-attack when he failed to pull the trigger when one-on-one with defender Madi Panandetiguiri.
Warm welcome: FIFA president Sepp Blatter was made to feel at home in Johannesburg
The Nigeria defence were then called upon to keep out two testing corners before Super Eagles goalkeeper Enyeama denied Sanou’s powerful strike with a fantastic diving save to tip it around the post.
However, Burkina Faso remained unable to find that elusive cutting edge, with substitute Moumouni Dagano firing over the bar with his stoppage time free-kick in their last meaningful attack.