Daouda Diakité’s first act as substitute goalkeeper was to organise his wall. He seized the resultant free kick from the air and clasped the ball to his chest as he fell to the ground. It was a lingering moment of calm before the anticipated storm.
The mission was to keep a lead against 11 Ethiopians who four days earlier had lost their own goalkeeper but had nevertheless held out to draw against a full strength Zambia side.
What chance for Burkina Faso against men who had mixed and matched against the champions of Africa ?
Burkina Faso coach Paul Put sacrificed Wilfried Sanou to bring on Diakité but he left the front two Jonathan Pitroipa and Traoré on the field.
Put told RFI: “I said to myself I had to do something. Tactically it’s not the kind of thing you do but I kept the two of them up front because I was afraid.
“Ethiopia can circulate the ball very well. They’ve got lots of players who can play short combinations, so I said to myself I have to keep the pressure on their defence so that they can’t push forward.”
So far so logical for the 56-year-old Belgian trainer. But the adversity brought more innovation.
“I even played poker with Charles Kaboré. I told him to play behind the two strikers and to leave two men in front of the back four.”
A defensive stalwart as fantasista? Hey, but what the heck. In for a penny, in for a pound.
And come the 90 minutes, jackpot. Ethiopia were a bedraggled haze. The vernal adventurers from the Zambia tie had been reduced to snarling, stamping nearly men.
Traoré ran on to Pitroipa’s flick and the sweep of his left leg imparted such power and swerve that the ball whistled into the goal from 25 metres. 2-0. Djakaridja Koné snuffed out an Ethiopian foray, moved up field, fed Pitroipa, collected the pass in the box and slotted in. 3-0.
Pitroipa added the gloss for 4-0 with a classy side footed finish in stoppage time.
“We made some changes into the game and it came out perfectly wonderful,” says Put.
Indeed. Burkina Faso sit a top Group C with four points from their two games. Zambia and Nigeria have two points and Ethiopia prop up the table with one point.
“In football anything can happen,” says Sewnet Bishaw, the Ethiopia coach. “We didn’t expect this result. At the start of the match we played very nice football and we thought we’d get the points. It didn’t happen and we’ll have to play well against Nigeria .”
Bishaw’s boys have no option other than attack against the Super Eagles in Rustenburg if they are to nourish any hope of advancing to the quarter finals;
Burkina Faso will only need a draw while Zambia require victory to assure themselves of passage into the last eight.
Koné, who scored the third goal, says: “We’re top of the group and we’re in a great position but we have one game to go. We have to rest and concentrate. We’ve got to prepare well for the game against Zambia. They won the title last year so it won’t be easy.
“Everyone’s confident after beating Ethiopia but we need a win or a draw against the Zambians.”
The Ethiopian annihilation was Burkina Faso’s first victory at the Africa Cup of Nations since 1998. Back then they finished fourth.
The current crop has already surpassed the disastrous performance of last year under Paulo Duarte when they lost all three group stage games.
Put’s putsch isn’t quite yet complete though. “We have to keep everyone’s feet on the ground and work for the final game," he says "We took some risks with some positions against Ethiopia but it worked. It was great.”