2001 was a historic year for football in Burkina Faso, firstly because the Stallions built on their successful qualification for the FIFA U-17 World Cup New Zealand 1999 but mainly due to the recognition they earned on the back of some outstanding performances at that year's FIFA U-17 World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago. Against an idyllic Caribbean backdrop, the young Stallions proved they were not just making up the numbers by beating Spain 1-0 and holding Argentina 2-2 in the group stages, before beating the Albicelestes in the third-place play-off. Two years later, this golden generation once more emphasised their credentials by qualifying for the FIFA U-20 World Cup UAE 2003. Today, some of these heroes are an integral part of the senior Burkina Faso side which is still on course to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
On the road to Nigeria 2009, Burkina Faso first had to overcome a major hurdle by beating Tunisia over two legs (0-0 and 3-1) in the qualifying play-off for the 2009 African U-17 Championship in Algeria. Once the tournament was underway, the youngsters truly hit the ground running, brushing past Zimbabwe 5-0 which included a hat-trick from Jerome Ouiya, before comfortably overcoming Malawi 2-0 to book their place in the last four and seal automatic qualification for Nigeria this October. Finally, a 1-0 victory against Niger, who were subsequently disqualified, meant that Burkina Faso finished as group winners and would take on the hosts in the semi-final.
The Desert Foxes put an end to the Stallions’ hopes with a narrow 1-0 win, but the west Africans ended the tournament on a high, beating Malawi 2-0 in the third-place play-off just as they did in the group stages, with another strike from Ouiya.
When the young Stallions take to the field in Nigeria this autumn they will carry with them the hopes of a nation who believe that this new generation can make a name for themselves on the world stage. They have acquired tremendous belief in their abilities, with several players already attracting interest from some of the biggest clubs in the game. This new generation dreams of at least emulating the achievements of their predecessors in 2001. And with a star player like the elusive Hamed "Zidane" Zoungrana, whose nickname surely suggests a glittering future, there is no doubt that the potential is there.
Facts and figures
Issaka Ouedraogo, Djibril Compaore (1999), Madi Panandetiguiri, Wilfried Sanou (2001)
Hamed Zoungrana (midfielder)
The numbers game
10 - The number of goals scored by the Stallions in the African U-17 Championship, which doubles as the qualifying tournament for Nigeria 2009. The only goal they conceded was in their semi-final defeat to hosts Algeria.