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Stage set for Afcon finals

The world will be watching as Nigeria take on Burkina Faso in the 2013 Afcon finals in Johannesburg.

The National Stadium in Johannesburg will host the 2013 Afcon finals. Picture: Wikipedia

JOHANNESBURG -The world will watch as Nigeria battle with Burkina Faso for the coveted 2013 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) title at the National Stadium in Johannesburg at 8pm on Sunday night.

Gates open at 4pm and the closing ceremony will begin at 6:30pm.

A musical extravaganza is on the cards with artists MiCasa, Zonke Dikana, Thembisile Ntaka, Kelly Khumalo and Nigerian star D'Banj.

'GET THERE EARLY'

Gauteng Traffic Police said soccer lovers need to plan their routes and arrive early at the stadium for the ceremony and the final.

A number of roads around the stadium will be closed due to high volumes of traffic.

Nasrec Road, Rand Show Road and the Soweto highway will be closed from 2pm.

Gauteng Traffic's Obed Sibasa said they have a number of plans in place to ease traffic congestions.

"We urge fans to be there early and be seated at least two hours before the closing ceremony."

Fans are encouraged to use the park and ride facilities from Constitution Hill in Braamfontein and Westgate station.

NIGERIA ARE FAVOURITES

Meanwhile, Nigeria remain the favourites to win their third Afcon title, but the possibility of Burkina Faso springing a surprise in the final cannot be discounted.

Both sides began their campaigns with few hopes but have advanced to the final in a tournament filled with upsets.

Nigeria, despite their heavyweight status, made it clear they saw the event in South Africa as a chance to develop a new team, while Burkina Faso were always rank outsiders.

Yet both have overcome considerable odds to reach the final, the Burkinabe for the first time.

Sitting at 92 on the FIFA rankings chart, Burkina Faso have exceeded their wildest dreams by first winning their group, then beating Togo after extra time in the quarterfinals and edging Ghana on penalties in a thrilling semifinal on Wednesday.

All five of their matches, including a 1-1 draw with Nigeria on the third day of the tournament were played on a sandy surface in Nelspruit, but they now face their first game in Johannesburg.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country and a consistent exporter of talent to clubs worldwide, have only won the tournament in 1980 and 1994.

Coach Stephen Keshi was their captain when they last lifted the trophy, and should Nigeria win on Sunday he will become only the second man to win Africa's top football prize as both a player and coach, matching the feat of Egyptian Mahmoud Al Gohari.

PITCH ISSUES RESOLVED

Meanwhile, CEO of the National Stadium Jacques Grobbelaar said pitch was totally playable and management had worked tirelessly to get the turf ready.

"The pitch is 100 percent playable and meets Fifa standards 100 percent.

"With regards to aesthetics, we may have five percent out on that. I think it can only improve towards summer, but we've got a lot of time left."

Grobbelaar was responding to criticism of the venue maintenance by Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula.

Mbalula expressed disbelief at the body for hosting a concert at the venue during the tournament.

The Red Hot Chilli Peppers performed last week for thousands of fans.

Mbalula said it was unheard of that events of that scale happened during a major tournament at the same venue.

Grobbelaar said concerts were needed to ensure the viability of the stadium.

"We needed to find ways of filling this stadium up more than twice a year otherwise we would not be sustainable. And our business model hinges on additional content."