Super eagles of Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi believes the Mali players are being spurred on by the civil war back in their country and it is driving the players towards success at the Africa Cup of Nations.
The two west African teams meet in the first semifinal of the
competition in Durban on Wednesday with the Super Eagles favourites
after they ousted Ivory Coast in the previous round.
However, Keshi, who was the former coach of Mali, insists there is no such thing against
a team that has had several of its players directly affectedby the unrest in their homeland.
“It's a shame what's going on in Mali, a great country with wonderful
people,” he said on Tuesday. “It's a place I love. There's no doubt this
group of players is thinking about that and that's where they're
getting their power, motivation force and spirit from.”
The two-time champions have surprised many by reaching the last four in
South Africa with their biggest showing yet coming when they stunned the
Ivory Coast, the continent's No 1 ranked side, with a 2-1 win on
They were overwhelming underdogs for that game, a status, which has
completely turned on its head now that they are in the penultimate round
against a team that has struggled most of its way through to the
But Keshi said: “I don't know anything about being the favourites to win
the game or to win the championship. All we know is that we're playing a
very good side of Mali.
“I know at least 85 per cent of them played for me for two years. I know
it's not going to be easy, we're here to play it game-by-game until the
end of the tournament.
“So that's how we're going to approach it, the same way as we approached
the previous games, the seriousness we're going to put in. we respect
every team that is here.
“There is no team we will take for granted or for a joke. Our concentration will once again have to be at its peak.”
The fifty one year-old has been to the finals on five occasions as a player and
led Nigeria to their last title in Tunisia which was 19 years ago in 1994.