Substitute Aristide Bance and Prejuce Nakoulma struck inside the last 10 minutes as Burkina Faso beat Tunisia 2-0 in an entertaining Nations Cup quarter-final at the Stade de Libreville to reach the final four and dump the North Africans out.
Bance replaced Cyrille Bayala in the 76th minute to a delirious reception, and needed only five minutes to score his 18th international goal after winning a free kick. Bertrand Traore laid the ball into Bance’s path from outside the box and the ASEC Mimosas frontman sent a powerful low strike around the wall and into the back of the net.
Tunisia rode the storm after two fine chances for the West Africans in the immediate aftermath of the goal, with Bance again hitting the post, but they were the architects of their own downfall in the 85th minute when Aymen Mathlouthi misjudged a long ball, came racing out of his goal, only to miss out to Nakoulma.
The lightning forward, tasting blood, evaded the challenge of the hapless goalkeeper and raced the length of the Tunisian half before finishing with aplomb.
Mathlouthi was unsurprisingly inconsolable in the aftermath of the strike, but the goal was deserved by a Burkina Faso side who brought the full breadth of their experience and vibrancy to play during a bright bout.
Continuing the theme of attractive open football that has characterised many of the contests at this Nations Cup, particularly in Libreville, the first half was lively, with both sides enjoying chances to open the scoring.
It was Tunisia that ended the Burkinabe’s Afcon dreams at the same stage of the tournament when the West Africans hosted it 19 years ago, and the North Africans sought to establish their dominance early on, enjoying much of the early possession in the Gabonese capital.
However, in Bertrand Traore, Burkina Faso perhaps possessed the brightest talent in the game, and it became apparent early on that the Chelsea loanee would enjoy his tussle with Aymen Abdennour, who levelled him with an early foul to set the tone for an ugly first half for the Tunisians.
While Tunisia enjoyed chances of their own, the Stallions succeeded in imposing themselves better on their opponents.
Nakoulma sent an early effort over the bar after being picked out by Traore, before the latter hit the woodwork with a cheeky effort after the roles were reversed, with the free agent playing the part of creator.
Abdennour eventually went into the book in the 22nd minute after one ugly foul too many, and he was soon joined by Ali Yacoubi and Syam Ben Youssef.
Hamdi Nagguez was lucky to escape with just a warning from the referee after blatantly pulling an opponent’s shirt in the box as the Stallions sought to turn the screw.
It was times like this that the Eagles of Carthage perhaps could have done with a little more of the grit and cynicism that has characterised their previous Afcon performances, but despite their difficulties at the back, they demonstrated a threat of their own.
Taha Khenissi saw a decent headed effort fly over the bar, while Amine Ben Amor sent a thunderous effort over the bar after Wahbi Khazri’s quick-thinking cut-back from a free kick.
The Sunderland man’s evening ended prematurely when he was replaced, clearly unimpressed with the decision.
Issoufou Dayo, the unlikely hero of the Stallions’ opener, almost repeated the feat when he slammed a powerful free kick over the bar, but in Bance, Burkina Faso have the most unlikely—but most effective—of Nations Cup heroes, as his late intervention reaffirmed.