The first two times Paulo Duarte was in charge of Burkina Faso at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations was in 2010 and 2012 and his record read: Played five, drawn one, lost four. After losing all three groups games in 2012, he was sacked.
Fast forward five years and two teams later, the Portuguese coach is back at the helm and again in charge of Les Etalons at the Africa Cup of Nations. But this time around, things are looking very different for the former defender, who played close to 250 league games in the Portuguese top flight. On Saturday, Burkina Faso became the first team to qualify for the semi-finals of the competition after beating Tunisia 2-0 in Libreville.
“Even though we twice managed to qualify for the finals (2010 and 2012), the team had no experience,” said Duarte. “The only ambition then, was to qualify, because when I arrived, Burkina Faso had not played at the finals for six years.
“When I came back, it was a very different story, although there were some problems. I tried to fix them, but I had to go slowly,” he recalls, adding that many of the players who lacked the experience in his first stint in charge, were now leading the team. “Today, I have more talent. Leading players are in their late 20s. They are between 27 and 29 years, in their best age. As a result we play better and it makes it easier to integrate new, younger players.”
Like no other coach at these finals, Duarte has managed to blend together a strong team, using experienced players – some of which he first brought to the team in 2010 – and talented youngsters.