JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Jonathan Pitroipa was not able to provide the spark that Burkina Faso needed to contend with Nigeria in the African Cup of Nations final on Sunday.
Pitroipa got to play in the biggest game of his life after his red card from the semifinals was rescinded by the Confederation of African Football, but he was mostly ineffective in his team's 1-0 loss at Soccer City.
He was never much of a threat and failed to create significant scoring opportunities for Burkina Faso as it tried to win its first African trophy.
The 26-year-old forward was named the best player of the tournament despite the loss.
"Maybe he was not (playing) like before," Burkina Faso coach Paul Put said. "But it's also because Nigeria was playing very well against Pitroipa. I think we still have to be very proud of the players' performance."
Aristide Bance, who teamed up with Pitroipa up front, also was ineffective through most of the match, leaving the Burkina Faso attack without much of a chance against the solid Nigerian defense.
"I think (the attack) cannot always work," Put said. "But I think we tried to do everything possible, can't do more than this. I'm still happy with the way it all happened."
Pitroipa attracted much of the attention leading into the final because of Burkina Faso's attempt to get him eligible for the match after the controversial red card in the semifinals.
The 26-year-old Rennes striker was cleared to play on Friday after CAF rescinded the second yellow card he received in the final minutes against Ghana. He was sent off after being booked for diving, but Tunisian referee Slim Jdidi said in a later report that he had made a mistake.
Pitroipa had his first chance on Sunday in the 16th minute, clearing a few defenders outside the area before sending a pass to Bance inside the area, but the ball was deflected.
On the ensuing corner, Pitroipa went down while trying to get past a defender and appealed for a penalty. He again complained of a foul inside the area as he went past a defender in the 43rd.
After a bad miss just before halftime, he was visibly frustrated and walked slowly back to midfield with his head down as play continued behind him.
Pitroipa appeared seriously injured after a hard foul that led to a yellow card for Nigeria defender Kenneth Omeruo in the 57th. He was down for several moments and needed help to leave the field briefly.
The injury didn't seem to affect him but he was still never able to get close to the Nigeria goal.
Pitroipa's absence would have made things even worse for Burkina Faso as it was already without injured playmaker Alain Traore, who scored three goals early in the tournament to help the Stallions advance past the group stage for only the second time.
The Burkinabes won Group C ahead of Nigeria, defending champion Zambia and Ethiopia. It then beat Emmanuel Adebayor's Togo 1-0 in the quarterfinals and defeated favorite Ghana 3-2 on penalties in the semis.
It was Burkina Faso's first final at the African Cup of Nations. Its best result until now had been a fourth-place finish in 1998.
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