The super eagles Nigeria qualified for their first Africa Cup of Nations final in 13 years with a 4-1 destruction of Mali in the semifinal in Durban on Wednesday evening.
In what was the most impressive and
comprehensive performance of the tournament so far, Stephen Keshi’s
Super Eagles crushed Mali thanks to goals from Elderson Echiejile, Brown
Ideye, Emmanuel Emenike and Ahmed Musa.
Antamady Diarra pulled one back for Patrice Carteron’s team in the
second half, but it proved little more than a consolation goal as
Nigeria moved into their first final since losing on home soil to
Cameroon in 2000.
Nigeria settled the quicker of the two teams,
though it was Mali who threatened an early goal when Molla Wague’s
header from a corner kick flashed just wide of the target in the 12th
minute, while Momo Sissoko shot just over the top from long range less
than 60 seconds later.
On 15 minutes John Obi Mikel opened up
Mali’s defence with a raking long ball that allowed Emmanuel Emenike to
sprint in behind and get a low shot on target, but goalkeeper Mamadou
Samassa made a good save with his feet. Seven minutes later Mikel sent a
powerful volley just wide.
The Super Eagles opened the scoring
on 25 minutes thanks to some great play down the right flank by Victor
Moses. The Chelsea attacker twisted and turned his way past Adama
Tamboura before providing a low cross that Elderson Echiejile turned
into the net with a diving header.
Just five minutes later it was
2-0, with Nigeria again penetrating down the right flank. This time it
was Emenike who provided a low cross that was turned into the net by
Brown Ideye from close range, though the ball appeared to also make
contact with defender Mahamadou Ndiaye.
Just before half time,
Nigeria received a big slice of luck to help rack up their third goal. A
free kick was teed up for Emenike to strike – his effort was directed
low and hard at the wall, but ricocheted off the legs of Sissoko,
completely wrong-footing the goalkeeper and finding its way into the
back of the net.
Mali created a chance to pull a goal back early
in the second half, but captain Seydou Keita, of all people, fluffed the
attempt and put the ball wide of the near post with only goalkeeper
Vincent Enyeama to beat.
On the hour mark Nigeria surged into a
4-0 lead to put beyond any doubt the final result of the match. Mikel
played a perfectly-timed pass for substitute Ahmed Musa to spring Mali’s
offside trap, before the youngster coolly slotted the ball between
The other Samassa on the pitch, striker Mahamadou
Samassa, had a great chance to pull one back for the Eagles in the 72nd
minute, but he was denied by a fine save from Enyeama.
However, three minutes later Cheick Diabate set-up fellow substitute
Fantamady Diarra to at least put Mali on the score sheet at 4-1.
The Super Eagles will play Bukina Faso in the finals after the french speaking country edge out favourite, Ghana 3-2 on penalty in Neispruit. Score after extra time was 1-1
Both teams met in the group stage and Nigeria lost concentration at the last seconds of stoppage time for Bukina Faso to score and cancel out Nigeria one goal lead.