THE superior Super Eagles of Nigeria demolished the Mali’s Eagles 4-1 to book a place in the Africa Cup of Nations final for the first time since cohosting the tournament with Ghana 13 years ago.
This was the semifinal many had hoped Bafana Bafana would be taking part in but that wasn’t to be and the Durban faithful opted to stay at home as such.
Nonetheless the colourful Nigerian supporters came out in numbers. If their team was brilliant in evicting favourites Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals, they moved up a level to book a ticket to Sunday’s final in Johannesburg.
Mali started the brighter of the two west African nations, with midfielder Kalilou Traore twice nodding wide after getting on the end of Mahamane Traore’s zipping corners in the opening 10 minutes.
John Obi Mikel at the centre of the Nigerian midfield did a good job on fellow European Champion’s League winner Seydou Keita to allow his speedy countrymen to run at the Malians.
Nigeria balanced the scales when a good looping ball by Mikel found Emmanuel Emenike wide down the right, the striker turned into the box to create space for a good shot that was well-saved by Mamadou Samassa in goal.
A cheeky back-heel one-two with Aide Ideye could have allowed Emenike through for another chance but the Mali defence held firm.
That move turned the heat up in the game. A Mikel long-range bender and an unsuccessful Mali penalty shout followed.
Victor Moses took over proceedings midway through the first half and sparked Nigeria’s goal spree.
The nifty Chelsea winger embarrassed Mali left back Adama Tamboura – one of Mali’s most dependable players of the tournament – with a bag of tricks before crossing for Elderson Echiejile to score with a diving header. threw his head at the low ball to open the scoring.
It was 2-0 before the Eagles could comprehend how they had allowed Nigeria so much space in their danger area.
In the 30th minute, Moses was all over them again.
He broke free in midfield, sucked the Mali defensive pair out of position before setting Emenike free down the right. Emenike wasted no time, crossed and Ideye did the easy part.
Mali had fought throughout the tournament. They fought to get a place in the second round after losing their second match to Ghana, fought back from 1-0 down to level 1-1 and beat South Africa in a penalty shootout.
But when Emenike’s deflected free kick rolled into the net to make the score 3-0 to Nigeria before half time, the Malians looked to have lost the fight.
For the half time team talk, though, it was worth remembering that Mali were a team that had recovered from a 4-0 deficit to draw 4-4 against the 2010 host Angola. Nigeria needed to do what South Africa failed to do – keep scoring goals when you have Mali under pressure.
This is not the way Patrice Carteron’s brave soldiers would have wanted to bow out of the tournament and Fantamady tried to restore some respectability to the scoreline when he finished off a great layoff by Cheik Diabate. It was, however, too little, too late.
- The second semifinal last night went in to extra time after Burkina Faso and Ghana p;layed to a 11 draw at full-time. Goals by Mubarak Wakaso, a 12th minute penalty, gave Ghana a 1-0 lead.
This however was snuffed out when The Stallions pulled level when Aristide Bance got between two defenders to blast the ball home in the 60th minute.