Burkinabe coach Put lauds Traore

Alain Traore
Alain Traore

Coach Paul Put has lauded Alain Traore's contribution to Burkina Faso's eye-catching Africa Cup of Nations first round campaign.

Traore is leading the scoring charts in South Africa after his stoppage-time equaliser against Nigeria and a brace in the 4-0 demolition of Ethiopia.

Those results have lifted the Burkinabe to the top of Group C.

The Stallions need just a point from Tuesday's final group game against Zambia to make the last eight.

Traore very nearly missed out on the 2013 finals when he sustained an ankle injury in mid-December.

But on the eve of the game in Nelspruit, Put paid tribute to Traore, telling a press conference at the team hotel: "He scored an important goal against Nigeria (as a substitute).

"After that game I spoke to him privately to see if he was ready to play a full game and he said 'you can count on me, I'm ready'.

"Alain demonstrated his quality by scoring twice against Ethiopia, but also in the way he played to the limit for 90 minutes.

"That was a great pleasure to me and to everyone in Burkina Faso."

The Lorient striker was responsible for getting Burkina Faso to South Africa in the first place, scoring twice at home to Central African Republic, including the tie-clinching goal deep in stoppage time.

After three weeks in plaster, an x-ray in early January gave Traore the all-clear and answered Burkina Faso's prayers, the examination detecting nothing seriously amiss, leaving Traore on target to join the Stallions in South Africa.

Reflecting on the race against time to get him fit for South Africa, Put added: "There was a big question mark surrounding his participation. We sent over a doctor to see him, and luckily he's here."

Traore's deadly left foot did it for Ethiopia to put him in the running for the tournament's golden boot award.

"That would be great, but there's a long way to go yet," the player cautioned.

"If I get the top scorer award I'll be happy, I know my qualities, I'll continue to work.

"The most important thing now, though, is to qualify for the quarters."

In taking apart Ethiopia, a result all the more noteworthy as Burkina were down to 10 men after losing their goalkeeper to a red card for handball outside his area, Burkina ended a Nations Cup winless run stretching back 18 matches.

Put reflected: "Our first aim arriving here was to do better than in previous Nations Cups.

"We've already achieved that. That has helped free the players' minds, it was good for our confidence."