Burkina Faso is in the final of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations after beating Ghana 3-2 on penalties.
The match started out a thrilled and stayed that way until the end.
A ball to Jonathan Pitroipa nearly fetched the Burkinabes a penalty after five minutes, as John Boye clumsily cluttered into the Rennes man, but referee Slim Jedidi would have none of it. A minute later, Ghana had another scare, this time involving right back John Paintsil, who seemed to tear a muscle when racing for the ball with Mady Panandetiguiri and was promptly replaced by Solomon Asante.
When the referee did call for a penalty, however, it would be in favor of the Ghanaians when, in the 13th minute, Christian Atsu attempted to head a long ball from a Wakaso free kick and went down under the slightest of challenges from Panandetiguiri. The Burkinabes felt that there really was nothing in it but the Tunisian official maintained his stance and Wakaso stepped up to convert. It was the Black Stars' third spot kick in five games, all dispatched by the same man.
A tug from Rabiu Mohammed on Nakoulma earned the Ghanaian the game's first caution but the resultant free kick came to nothing.
Wakaso soon had another coming for the opposition, though, this time coming in the form of a shot from range that Daouda Diakite in goal for the Stallions only fully picked up on the second attempt. The scoreline, however, belied the swing of exchanges at that stage as Paul Put's side had actually enjoyed more of the possession, albeit mostly in the form of disjointed play.
A sweet through ball into Asamoah Gyan could have earned Ghana a second, with half an hour gone, but Gyan could only manage a shot that an agile, brave Diakite palmed away after narrowing the angle for the Al-Ain star. Nakoulma, by now Burkina's most threatening player, ballooned the ball over the Ghana goal after latching on to a long ball played over the Stars' defense.
Eight minutes before the end of the half, Kwadwo Asamoah recouped a seemingly wasted cross and rounded his man nicely to slip it to Asante, but the substitute fluffed his shot.
The first half eventually ended with both managers having their work for the second clearly cut out. Ghana needed to consolidate their lead, and Burkina Faso desperately required an equalizer.
Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah replaced Rabiu - who seemed to have taken a knock too many earlier in the match - with Derek Boateng a little after the second half had commenced. On 52 minutes, Bance produced a powerful goal-bound header which the Ghanaian keeper impressively palmed onto the bar and then collected, even as the Burkinabe fans got ready to celebrate what had seemed a timely leveler.
Out of the blue, a ball from Atsu on the left found the Ghanaian captain Gyan, who gave the ball a nonchalant flick, but only against the inside of the right goalpost.
Almost immediately, the Ghanaians were given cause for regret. Midfielder Agyemang Badu was cruelly dispossessed in the Ghana area and a ball was laid ahead for Bance who wasted no time putting a nice finish past Dauda. After that goal there was little to talk about until the 75th minute when a cross from Wakaso found Gyan who headed just over the target. Immediately afterwards, Koulibally, who fell from marking Gyan, sent a vicious stamp into the latter's groin and received a yellow card for his troubles.
Then, seven minutes from the end, Atsu fired from the edge of the Burkinabe box, Diakite dived low to parry and a succession of kicks to and from the direction of the goal from either side ensued until the ball was eventually cleared. A spell of dull action followed with little of note until referee Jedidi brought an end to proceedings after 90 minutes, with regulation having failed to produce a winner.
The first 13 minutes of extra time began the same as the preceding period ended, but was nearly sparked to life by a sweet strike by Harrison Afful in the 94th inside the Burkina Faso box, which was pushed over by the excellent Diakite.
Meanwhile, the terrible Mbombela pitch was, quite unexpectedly, doing its worst in marring the game's beauty. Bance, in the 102nd, had a fine opportunity to grab a second after getting the better of Ghana's rather central defensive pair of Isaac Vorsah and Boye, but he struck incredibly wide. Then, Nikoulma thought he had made up for his teammate's blunder, but had the fortuitous goal he scored scrapped for an apparent foul on Kwadwo Asamoah, ensuring neither side emerged on top heading into the final half.
Burkina Faso earned a corner kick and the resultant connection from Bance -arguably Burkina Faso's main threat at this stage - was cleared spectacularly from the goal line with a touch that proved just as crucial as any that could have found his country a winning goal.
Pressure was mounting on the Ghanaians as evidenced by a precise shot from distance by Koulibally that was met by an equally superb save from Dauda. Yet another incursion from the men in green saw Pitroipa apparently tripped by Boye in the Ghana box - and in an incident somewhat reminiscent of what had occurred earlier in the game - the forward failed to get a decision and, even worse, got booked a second time, ruling him out of the rest of the game and by extension, what remained of the tournament.
A shootout was due at that point, as the only remaining means of separating the two neighbors. Vorsah, Emmanuel Clottey and Badu missed for Ghana with only Christian Atsu and Harrison Afful scoring, while perfect conversions from Bakary Kone, Henri Traore and Bance proved sufficient for Burkina Faso to send the country through to its first ever AFCON final against Nigeria.
Ghana, by virtue of the loss, books a date in the third-place playoff versus Mali, a repeat of what ensued at the last tournament.