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Burkina Faso Happy With Their Advance to Final 16

Posted December. 02, 2003 23:01,   


Burkina Faso, a small country in western Africa, is “The African Express.”

Burkina Faso beat the Eastern European power Slovakia with a 1-0 victory at the second game of group A played at Jazeera Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on December 2. It was their second consecutive victory after beating Panama in the opening match and has allowed them to advance to the final 16 with six winning points. It is the biggest surprise so far in this championship.

Burkina Faso is a country which Korean soccer fans have not even heard of. It was colonized by France and became independent in 1960. The population is 13 million people and the per capita income is $1,000, leaving it as one of the poorest nations in Africa.

However it is known as a dark horse in African soccer. This is a result of long-term soccer projects with assistance from the Netherlands. Coach Mart Nooij is from Netherlands as well.

Coach Nooij, who took over the Burkina Faso Youth National team in 2001, has changed it into a powerful team by using the practical method of Netherlands’ soccer. He developed the best defensive line in African soccer, stressing, “A weaker team has to set up strong defensive walls first and then look for a chance through a counter attack.” Burkina Faso joined the World Youth Soccer Championship for the first time after finishing in third place in the preliminary tournaments in the Africa region.

In fact, its strong start has been predicted since 2001. The youth team under 17 years old took second place at the Africa Championship and also third place in the World Championship. The players from both matches are the current core of this team.

Ousseni Zongo, scoring a goal at 6 minutes, is a well-known star of the team. He plays for Anderlecht in the Belgium Pro Football League along with “Taeguk warrior” Seol Ki-hyun. Zongo is an attacking mid-fielder with good play controlling and goal making skills and has become a target of scouts from the major European leagues.

Park Sung-hwa, the coach of Korean National team, said, “Burkina Faso defeated powers such as Cameroon and Nigeria in the African preliminary matches. It has not experienced enough in international competitions, however it can’t be looked down upon.” KBS soccer commentator (also a professor in Sejong University) Lee Yong-soo mentioned, “The team has remarkable speed and skills, therefore they will have better playing ability than that of a youth team.”

Meanwhile, the favored Argentina earned a reverse triumph over Uzbekistan with a 2-1 score at the second match of group B, lead by an active role from Reandro Fernandez. Argentina, beating 1999 champion Spain in the first game, captured the six points to confirm their advance to the next round, regardless of the match against Mali.

“Samba Corps” Brazil tied Czech Republic at 1-1 in the group C, but approached closer to the final 16 in first place with 1 win and 1 draw.

Jong-Koo Yang yjongk@donga.com