Efe Ambrose is on the cusp of becoming a Nigerian hero -–but could be set to miss Celtic’s Champions League last 16 clash against Juventus.
The 24-year-old starred for the Super Eagles yesterday as they breezed past Mali in the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final with a stunning 4-1 win.
Stephen Keshi’s men will now travel to Johannesburg for Sunday’s showpiece final against shock troops Burkina Faso, seeking to become the first Nigerian side to be crowned champions of Africa since 1994.
Ambrose is expected to start in the final, which comes just 48 hours before Celtic are due to welcome Juve to Glasgow. The combative defender will face a race against time to return to Scotland ahead of Tuesday’s encounter, but Neil Lennon has said he will give Ambrose every chance to feature.
Nigeria dominated from the start against Mali and opened the scoring with a header by Elderson Echiejile in the 25th minute. Brown Ideye added to the lead after a breakaway in the 30th and Emmanuel Emenike netted from a free kick in the 44th.
Substitute Ahmed Musa scored the fourth goal in the 60th as Nigeria ended Mali’s hopes of lifting the trophy to bring joy to the fans enduring political instability and conflicts back home.
Cheick Diarra got Mali’s consolation goal in the 75th.
Burkina Faso later stunned Ghana on penalties to reach their first African final, coming from behind to draw 1-1 after 120 minutes and then sending the four-time champion crashing out 4-2 in the shoot-out.
Three Ghanaians missed their spot kicks, with Burkina Faso goalkeeper Daouda Diakite pulling off the decisive save from Emmanuel Agyemang Badu at Mbombela Stadium to send the underdogs through to Sunday’s final against Nigeria.
Ghana had led through Wakaso Mubarak’s 13th-minute penalty, only to be dragged back by Aristide Bance’s equalizer for the Burkinabes in the 60th.
Ghana again missed out at the Cup of Nations, having last won the title in 1982.