Keshi applauds CAF decision to clear Pitroipa

GERALD IMRAY AP Sports Writer Published:

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi sportingly welcomed the decision by the Confederation of African Football to clear Burkina Faso's Jonathan Pitroipa to play in Sunday's African Cup of Nations final, but still doesn't know if his own leading strikers will be available.

Keshi said on Saturday it was "very clear" that Pitroipa didn't deserve his red card for diving in the semifinal win over Ghana. The coach added that CAF's decision to rescind the red card and clear the France-based forward for the Burkinabes' first final was correct -- and good for the game at Soccer City.

However, Keshi could not yet say if his leading scorer, Emmanuel Emenike, and Chelsea's Victor Moses would recover from their injuries in time. Moses' prospects were improving after he trained on Saturday.

Pitroipa was cleared by CAF on Friday after Tunisian referee Slim Jdidi conceded he made a mistake in sending the player off for diving in Wednesday's match with Ghana.

"It's not every day you get to play in the African Cup of Nations final so denying him that would have been tough," Keshi said at Soccer City. "I applaud the decision taken by CAF by rescinding the red card on Jonathan. When you look at the video ... it's very clear. It's obvious this guy does not deserve a red card."

Keshi said he was "happy" that Pitroipa would now get to play if he was picked for Burkina Faso.

"Having Jonathan should be entertaining, so I'm happy, I'm happy," Keshi said.

Burkina Faso coach Paul Put said he was now able to forgive the referee for a poor performance in Nelspruit before Burkina Faso won in a penalty shootout. If Burkina Faso had lost, it might have been different for Keshi's counterpart.

"He (referee Jdidi) is a professional so everyone can make mistakes," Put said. "At that moment we were angry, but we won so we can forget. If we hadn't won, then I could still have a headache. We are very happy that CAF made a decision that Pitroipa can play this final."

While Pitroipa was available again to boost the Burkinabes, there wasn't any clear good news for the Nigerians as to whether Emenike or Moses would play in the team's first final in over a decade.

Moses did work out at the showpiece stadium and appeared to have a better chance of playing than Emenike, who is the joint-leading scorer at the tournament with four goals.

Emenike did not appear on the pitch during the time reporters were allowed to watch the session. The forward has been struggling with a muscle injury.

"We're not 100 percent sure if he's (Emenike) out," Keshi said. "We'll know tomorrow morning. There's a lot of improvement. If he's not going to be there tomorrow ... someone has to pick up (from him)."

Keshi said he would be prepared to risk Moses in the final, even if the Chelsea man wasn't fully recovered from his twisted left ankle.

"Even if he's 80 percent fit, I'll take that," Keshi said.

Nigeria is hoping for a third cup, while Burkina Faso will play its first final having gone past the group stage for only the second time.