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Football: Burkina Faso dancing to Bance's tune

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Aristide Bance emerges from his hotel room, it's the morning after the night before, the semi-final win over Ghana in which he and his blond spaghetti-mop hair played a starring role.

The Augsburg attacker left an indelible mark on the game, an ever-present threat to the Ghanaian defence he grabbed the equaliser that sent the tie into extra time and then produced an outlandish penalty in the shoot-out.

Bance's audacious effort, Burkina's third spot kick, put them on the road to Sunday's Africa Cup of Nations final in Soweto after Ghana's Udinese midfielder Emmanuel Agyeman Badu had his effort saved by Daouda Diakite.

It doesn't come much better than this, and Bance is predictably all smiles as he takes time out to reflect on a momentous night, before a late breakfast.

"Honestly, before the game my friends told me this was going to be my day," he told AFP.

"Okay, I had quite a few chances before I scored, that happens. Then, with the penalty, I saw the keeper move, I saw his position, and it worked.

"When I put my hands to my ears that wasn't only for the fans in the stadium, it was for all the people back in Ouagadougou, for all of Burkina Faso. We come here for the people."

Burkina Faso's charmed run to the Nations Cup finale against Nigeria in Soccer City beggars belief -- after all their sole ambition arriving in South Africa was just to win a game to end a 17-match winless run.

"It's a real pleasure, it's been 15 years since Burkina were last in a semi-final," the 28-year-old Abidjan-born striker reflected.

"Ghana are a great country, at the 2010 Nations Cup they knocked us out, last night we showed that we, too, can knock Ghana out."

An admirable opening 1-1 draw with their Sunday opponents Nigeria augured well, but no one could have predicted the style and substance of their 4-0 rout of Ethiopia.

Bance said that win proved a game-changer for the Stallions.

"That win gave us all a lot of confidence.

"Before, when you were picked to play for the national team which had not won a match at the Nations Cup for so long, all the players were thinking negatively.

"Now that we've started winning, we go out for every match thinking we can win again -- it's freed our heads."

The Burkinabe have reached the final the hard way, holding Nigeria and defending champions Zambia, beating Ethiopia with 10 men, and defying a hatful of bizarre decisions by the referee in Wednesday's semi-final.

Bance commented: "The referee last night was not correct, but we are professionals, we knew if we scored a goal the referee could not say no," although he did disallow Burkina's perfectly legitimate second half goal.

"We remained concentrated right to the end."

Jonathan Pitroipa's sending off for a second yellow in the 117th minute only served to unite the rank outsiders.

"Jonathan did not deserve to be sent off, in fact we thought the referee should have given us a penalty, instead he pulled out a red card! No one understood why, but when he went off we said 'okay, we'll fight for him'."

Regardless of the outcome of Sunday's climax, Burkina and Bance have already surpassed expectations.

Burkina's 2013 showing is a world apart from their sorry showing last year in Gabon/Equatorial Guinea, with Bance accrediting a now famous Belgian for the turn-around in form.

"Without a doubt the reason is our coach, Paul Put. He knows how to talk to the players, everyone is happy, even if you are on the bench you are made to feel as if you are part of a family."

With that, he and his mop hair left for breakfast and a trip not to the airport as everyone predicted, but to Johannesburg for a first crack at a title no one aside from Put and his players thought was remotely possible.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130207/football-burkina-faso-dancing-bances-tune