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06.06.2004 Football News

Zongo - The Ghana Destroyer

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Mamadou Zongo was the least expected scorer for Burkina Faso when he netted the only goal against Ghana in Saturday's World Cup qualifier in Ouagadougou.

For the striker was not even expected to play.

Nicknamed Bebeto after the Brazilian star, Zongo has been absent for three years from the national team, having undergone five operations on a knee ligament.

But he headed in from a free-kick with 10 minutes remaining to give Burkina Faso a fantastic start in Group Two of the joint World Cup and Cup of Nations qualifiers.

A string of injuries has meant the 23-year-old Zongo has been incredibly unlucky during the early stages of his career.

After he transferred from Racing Club Bobodioulasso, he rose to prominence with Ivorian side Asec Mimosas.

There, his prolific partnership at Asec with Ivorian striker Bonaventure Kalou, made him one of the most feared attackers in Africa in 1997 and probably the best talent to come out of Burkina Faso.

But then came the continual injury frustrations - so ongoing that Bebeto said he had contemplated retirement.

Bebeto has missed three out of four possible Nations Cup finals since 1998 - all due to injuries.

His only appearance was in the 2000 edition which was co-staged by Nigeria and Ghana.

Broken nose

However, Zongo has always been determined to try to revive his career.

"I have spent millions of Francs Cfa to heal up my injuries in one of the Dutch physical centres," Zongo said.

"I thought of hanging my boots when I saw other players training at Vitesse but I could not play.

"It was demoralising."

In fact even before Saturday's game, Burkina Faso coach Ivica Todorov had expressed doubts whether Zongo could play after he showed up in the national team camp on 3 June with a broken nose.

"I resumed playing for Vitesse in August and only a few days ago I broke my nose," explained Zongo.

"But it is getting better as I've been playing in the first division play-off."

On Saturday he proved his critics wrong - and was by no means just making up the numbers.