Sunday Mba scores the only goal of the Africa Cup of Nations final in South Africa
He gives Nigeria victory over first-time finalists Burkina Faso in Soweto
"Super Eagles" become fourth team to win the title on three or more occasions
Coach Stephen Keshi was also involved as a player in the team's last win in 1994
Nigeria’s long wait for a major soccer title ended on Sunday as the “Super Eagles” beat Burkina Faso 1-0 in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations.
Sunday Mba scored his second goal of the two-week tournament – both coincidentally coming on the day that bears his name – as Nigeria became just the fourth team to win the continental crown three times or more.
“I’m so happy it is a dream come true. I don’t know what to say,” Mba said after the final whistle.
“We really worked hard and we were looking forward to this day and I’m so happy for this.”
Stephen Keshi became only the second man to win the title as both coach and player, having been captain at the 1994 tournament when Nigeria won for the second time – though he did not play in that final.
Burkina Faso, playing in the final for the first time, missed out on the $1.5 million first prize and the chance to represent Africa at this year’s Confederations Cup in Brazil.
Mba also scored in the quarterfinal win over tournament favorites Ivory Coast, being one of five home-based players brought into the squad by Keshi.
Keshi made big changes after Nigeria failed to qualify for last year’s event in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon – a turbulent period for the national team, which was suspended from international football by President Goodluck Jonathan before world ruling body FIFA threatened to intervene.
However, the president was delighted with Sunday’s result.
“President Jonathan thanks coach Stephen Keshi and all members of the team who have worked very hard to make Nigeria the proud champions of Africa once again after 19 years of setbacks in the competition,” his office said in a statement.
“The President also believes that having conquered Africa, the new Super Eagles can go on to achieve even greater glory at the World Cup in Brazil next year.”
Back in 1994, Nigeria was ranked fifth in the world – the highest by any African nation.
The Super Eagles won gold at the 1996 Olympics, but have since slipped to 52nd in the rankings.
Mba’s 40th-minute strike came after a moment of opportunistic skill as the 24-year-old flicked a loose ball into the penalty area and then poked a volley past the Stallions’ goalkeeper Daouda Diakite.
“It will go a long way towards my career,” said Mba, who made his first appearance at the tournament after winning a late call-up from Keshi.
“This is my first time and I’m very happy. We gave all that we had.”