Nigeria - Mali Preview: Afcon semi-final sees a clash of the Eagles

The Malian national team have shown that they are wily and strong, and the Nigerians cannot afford to be complacent if they are to reach the final


Ambrose, Oboabona, Omeruo, Elderson
Onazi, Mikel, Mba
Ideye, Emenike, Moses


Coulibaly, Tamboura, Diawara, Traore
Traore, Sissoko,Keita,
Diabate, Maiga, Diarra

After the epic victory over Cote d’Ivoire on Sunday, the Super Eagles must display the same verve against a Mali side that is young, hungry and led by a wily old-head in Seydou Keita.

Mali were third place finishers last year in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, but their record against Nigeria does not look good. In their last four Afcon encounters, Nigeria has prevailed on two occasions and drawn the other two.

So Wednesday’s game against the Nigerians is as much about pride as it is about changing recent records in their favour. Mohamed Sissoko and Samba Diabate are a doubt for Mali with injuries, while Fegor Ogude could come back into the Nigerian line-up to replace Ogenyi Onazi.

The Super Eagles must bring their A game to Durban on Wednesday if they are to have any hope of dislodging the ambitions of the Eagles of Mali, who want to win the Afcon title for their country, which is currently in political and social turmoil.

Coach Stephen Keshi does not necessarily need to change the team that was used in the quarter-final, barring any injuries, but the players need to be told that they have to show the same level of commitment and drive that they displayed against Cote d’Ivoire on Sunday.

In their penalty shootout victory over South Africa, Mali showed thaat they are well prepared tactically and technically to weather any storm and will look to drag this encounter into their comfort zone, so expect a cagey affair with the Malians playing on the counter-attack and the Super Eagles looking to get an early goal to settle their nerves.

  • Nigeria has played the most semi-final matches in the history of the Nations Cup - 13.

  • Mali played in the final of the Afcon in 1972, but lost 3-2 against Congo in the tournament hosted in Cameroon.

  • Emmanuel Emenike is tied with Alain Traore and Mubarak Wakaso on three goals in four matches during this tournament.

  • Seydou Keita (pictured) has scored 22 goals in 78 appearances for the Eagles of Mali.

  • Nigeria has played in the final of the Nations Cup six times and won the trophy on two occasions - in 1980 and 1994.

  • Mali is ranked 25th in the world by Fifa while Nigeria is ranked in 52nd place.