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Long Burkina Faso wait for a win set to end
It is 14 years and as many matches since Burkina Faso last won at the Africa Cup of Nations.
The Stallions edged Guinea when they hosted the 1998 tournament to go beyond the first round for the only time in seven appearances and finished fourth after a dramatic play-off.
Coached by French 'White Witchdoctor' Philippe Troussier, the then lowly Burkinabe were leading Demcratic Republic of Congo 4-1 with just a few minutes left before conceding three goals and losing the penalty shootout.
Competing in Nigeria, Mali, Tunisia and Angola since, the west Africans have drawn six matches and lost eight, but believe the 2012 tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea can usher in positive changes.
Drawn with star-studded Ivory Coast, defensive misers Angola and outsiders Sudan, Burkina Faso seem set to win at least once and have an even chance of finishing runners-up and reaching the quarter-finals.
They kick off against the Angolans on January 22 in a virtual second-place play-off and tackle the Ivorians at the same Malabo stadium four days later before heading for Equatoguinean mainland city Bata to play Sudan.
Getting to the last eight would represent a good showing from a nation that failed to score in Angola two years ago, drawing 0-0 with Ivory Coast and losing 1-0 to Ghana.
While Portuguese coach Paulo Duarte concedes Ivory Coast are the obvious choice to top the table, he calls his side "great and capable of finishing second in the group".
No squad will arrive in central Africa next week with broader smiles than Burkina Faso after enduring months of anxiety when Namibia claimed Cameroon-born left-back Herve Zengue was ineligible.
Namibia, last behind Burkina Faso and Gambia in a qualifying group, appealed twice to Pan-African football body CAF and also to CAS -- the Switzerland-based supreme court of sport -- before accepting defeat.
"It destabilised us a little waiting for the decision," admitted midfielder Jonathan Pitroipa from French club Rennes, "although our federation and sports minister kept assuring us that everything would be fine."
Ironically, Chechnya-based Zengue will not travel to Malabo because he is injured and Duarte omitted Ivory Coast-born Stephane Agbre as procedures to change his nationality were incomplete.
But a couple of midfielders born in neighbouring Ivory Coast -- Djakaridja Kone from Dinamo Bucharest and Abdoul Razak Traore from Polish outfit Lechia Gdansk -- were included.
While once menacing striker Moumouni Dagano appears to have lost some of his predatory instincts, midfielder Alain Traore from French side Auxerre grabbed four qualifying goals.
Captain Charles Kabore of Olympique Marseille and Pitroipa are impressive midfielders, defender Mady Panandetiguiri got a late recall due to injuries and Daouda Diakite is an experienced goalkeeper.
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