NELSPRUIT, South Africa - Burkina Faso beat Ghana on penalties to reach its first African Cup final in a stunning upset on Wednesday, coming from behind to draw 1-1 after 120 minutes and then eliminating the four-time champion 3-2 in the shootout.
Three Ghanaians missed their spot kicks, with Burkina Faso goalkeeper Daouda Diakite pulling off the decisive save from Emmanuel Agyemang Badu to send the underdogs through to Sunday's final against Nigeria at Soccer City, having only ever made it past the group stage once before.
"When we arrived in this competition, the only person who believed in us was our coach," Burkina Faso captain Charles Kabore said.
The Burkinabes didn't even need to take their last kick as Ghana's players came up short at the end, having led the second semifinal through Wakaso Mubarak's 13th-minute penalty.
But playing in just its second semi and first in 15 years, Burkina Faso dragged itself back into the game with Aristide Bance's equalizer in the 60th and then unleashed a succession of attacks against the fading Ghanaians in extra time at Mbombela Stadium.
Bance went close a number of times, while Burkina Faso also had a goal disallowed, was denied what appeared to be a penalty when Jonathan Pitroipa went down in the area in the 117th minute, and often fell on the wrong side of Tunisian referee Slim Jdidi's decisions.
Instead of a spot kick, Pitroipa was shown a second yellow card for diving and sent off. Burkina Faso still emerged victorious from the shootout to howls of approval from the crowd, which had adopted the team after it played its entire tournament in Nelspruit leading up to the final.
"I was very upset during the game, very angry with the decisions of the referee," winning coach Paul Put said. "It was difficult to control myself. But like I said to the players at halftime, we don't need the referee to win today. For me, it's a great victory."
While Burkina Faso celebrated its biggest footballing achievement on any stage, Ghana again missed out painfully at the African Cup. It last won the title in 1982 and has now made three semifinals and a final in the last four tournaments, only to fail in each.
"We are really sad at the moment ... what else can I say?" captain Asamoah Gyan said.
The loss appeared to be too much for Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah, who didn't attend the post-match news conference.
"We cannot find any excuses," Gyan said. "I think the better side won. We lost on a penalty shootout. The luckier side won."
Defender Isaac Vorsah screwed the first penalty of the shootout badly wide and Emmanuel Clottey also saw his go past the left post. Agyemang Badu had the decisive and devastating miss when Diakite guessed right and pushed the ball away to begin Burkina Faso's wild celebrations.
"Surprises are always there," Put said, comparing his team to the Zambians that won the title over Ivory Coast 12 months ago. "Maybe this time is our time."
Much earlier, Wakaso swept in his third goal from the spot at this tournament for Ghana's early lead, but Bance pounced on a defensive error from the Ghanaians to claim a popular equalizer.
Bance also had a powerful header saved on the line in the 53rd and Gyan hit the post for Ghana five minutes later — and two minutes before Burkina Faso struck back when Ghana lost possession deep in its half and Bance took his opportunity to shoot past Fatawu Dauda.
The outstanding Bance should have won it for Burkina Faso in the 102nd minute as he beat two defenders and carved open a chance, only to send his shot over the crossbar.
Burkina Faso had its goal ruled out contentiously in the 105th — right on halftime in extra time — when Prejuce Nakoulma was adjudged to have fouled a defender before poking the ball over Dauda and into the net.
Coach Put was furious with the Tunisian referee's decision then and even angrier after Pitroipa's red card.
With Ghana reeling, Bance missed two more chances in extra time before another effort was stopped on the line by defender Harrison Afful, who crouched to use his knees to somehow deflect a goalbound volley up and over the bar and to safety.
Gyan missed with a header in the 119th and soon after Pitroipa was red-carded in the final minutes of the pulsating and nerve-racking semifinal, which still had time for Bance to see a shot deflected away in the last act of open play before the shootout.
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