Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Saladin Said of Ethiopia is not just the country’s leading scorer but also their chief creator of goal
Ethiopia and Burkina Faso both secured morale-boosting draws in their Afcon Group C matches, but if they are advance to the quarter-finals of the competition they need to build on those performances.
Ethiopia were a goal and a man down against African champions Zambia, but managed to pull the game back to 1-1, while Burkina Faso managed to gain a point against Nigeria by scoring with the very last kick of the game.
Both of those results were unexpected, but thoroughly deserved, and the teams now have a chance to put one foot in the quarter-finals when they go head-to-head in Nelspruit on Friday.
Ethiopia will be without goalkeeper Bushura Tasew, who was red-carded against the Zambians, with his place likely to be taken by Derese Zerihun.
Their hopes will likely rest on the shoulders of star striker Saladin Said once more; he is not just the country’s leading scorer but also their chief creator of goals. He missed a penalty against Chipolopolo in the opener, but made up for it by laying on the equaliser for Adane Girma.
Coach Sewnet Bishaw would not be drawn on predictions for the match, saying only: “Every time you play against a different team things get tougher. We expect a tough game. The players have shown their characters, and shown the rest of the world they can play football.”
Burkina Faso probably go into the match as favourites, given their greater experience at Nations Cup finals.
Coach Paul Put praised the battling qualities of his side in their draw with Nigeria, the point earned by that late, late Alain Traore goal.
“Ethiopia is a surprise, which will not be easy,” Put said. “We have taken some confidence and I hope we can continue to fight.
“Ethiopia will not be an easy game, it will be a different game,” Put added. “We know the quality of Ethiopia, they circulate the ball very well physically, they are very strong they are used to playing at an altitude of 3,000 meters.
“So physically they are very strong. We have to be smart and use certain strategies to challenge them.”