Nigeria mauls Mali…Reaches final

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By KUNLE SOLAJA, Durban

For the seventh time, Nigeria has qualified for the final of the African Cup of Nations. The Super Eagles did it in grand style, not just beating the hard-fighting Eagles of Mali, 4-1, but ensuring that they spelt the name of the West African nation with goals.

What was initially expected to be a tough encounter ended up a one- sided match as the Super Eagles did not waste time in asserting that they were far more superior than the Eagles of  Mali  The last time the Super Eagles got to the final was 13 years ago, but sadly lost to Cameroon, the team that Nigeria lost three final matches to in 1984, 1988 and 2000. Certainly, now, their FIFA ranking is bound to soar next week Thursday when another one will be released.

What a resurgence of the Super Eagles who started the tournament as upstarts and barely survived the opening round suddenly have a transformation. What a build-up! Taking off as locomotive and eventually blasting away as a supersonic jet. Playing with unusual confidence that may even border on arrogance the pre-tournament unrated Nigerian side is now the top seed to win the cup on Sunday   From defence to the midfield and then the attack, they were masterly with their crisp passing and dribbling, superb ball control. They contested every ball and made the game a no-contest.

It was a compact defence, fluid midfield and a potent attacking line.   They have eventually shown that they are actually super. And so, Stephen Keshi is on his way into the history books. He will join the late Egyptian football legend, Mahmoud El-Gohary, to win the African Nations Cup as player and later as a coach. The Egyptian, who died last September in Jordan after suffering brain stroke achieved his feat in 1959 as a player and in 1998 as a coach. Keshi was the captain of the 1994 victorious Super Eagles and is already leading the team again as coach to another possible victory on Sunday.

By half-time, the Super Eagles had taken an absolute command of the game, taking a three goal lead. It was a bold statement from the Super Eagles. If they had been mocked and underrated before this tournament and, if their victory over Cote d’Ivoire was still being seen as a fling with success, in Durban they were declaring their intentions to engage in a formal courtship with success under Stephen Keshi. But the Malians also deserved some commendations.

No one thought they could even get this far. Their purpose was bigger, but Nigeria was a better team yesterday. In the first quarter of an hour, Nigeria had the dominance, but the Malians had had more shots on targets and also two corner kicks, while Nigeria had none.  Just over 10 minutes into the first half, Mali declared her intentions when Captain Seydou Keita’s header sailed narrowly wide from the left upright from a corner.

A minute later, Mohamed Sissoko unleashed a powerful shot from far, but it flew over the crossbar. The back-to-back Mali opportunities seemed to have left the Super Eagles shaken a bit   The first real chance for Nigeria came on the dot of 15 minute, but the strikers were clumsy and only got a corner kick that was wasted.  Then, the turning point as what initially looked like an even game eventually turned one-sided. Consequently, the Super Eagles began to be more assertive going forward. Soon, they had a moment of their own when striker Emmanuel Emenike found himself unmarked inside the box. Emenike picked his spot, but Mali’s keeper, Mamadou Samassa, produced a brilliant save.

Half-way through the first half, Nigeria’s persistence paid off when Chelsea’s forward, Victor Moses, telegraphed a beautiful cross inside the Mali box that was connected by Elderson Echiejile with a diving header to put the Super Eagles ahead. Echiejile might have received the kudus, but credit should go to Moses who had engineered the move and set it up for Echiejile. Four minutes later, the Super Eagles replicated a similar move and the results were the same. Emmanuel Emenike played a perfect ball inside the Mali box and Brown Ideye punished the Malian defence.

In both goals, Mali was guilty of ball watching. Throughout this campaign, their DNA had been a disciplined defence. However, Nigeria must have worked out that they can profit from attacking Mali’s left side. At the stroke of half-time, Nigeria impounded the misery on Mali when they scored their third goal thanks to a deflection from an Emenike free-kick. Fortune, it is often said, favours the brave.   Two minutes into the second half, Keita should have pulled one back for Mali, but he rushed his shot and missed target.

When Mali were picking momentum, Nigeria’s substitute Ahmed Musa put the final nail in their Mali’s coffin when he scored Nigeria’s fourth goal. On the 75thminute, Mali scored their only goal after substitutes, Tidiane Diabate and Mady Diarra combined well with the latter taking a shot to the far left corner that beat Nigeria keeper, Victor Enyeama.

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29 Comments

  1. I GIVE GOD THE GLORY. I ALSO PRAY THAT THESE GUYZ GROW FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH. FROM THIS TOURNAMENT SOME NIGERIANS WILL LEARN HOW TO TRUST THEIR PEOPLE EVEN WHEN THE GOING IS SO TURF. SUCCESS THEY SAY HAVE SO MANY FRIENDS. I PRAY GOD WILL HEAL VICTOR MOSES AND EMENIKE TO JOIN THE TEAM FOR THE FINAL. UP SUPER EAGLE.

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  3. Thank goodness, keshi start the built of psychology of these boys for final we can do without Moses and Yemenite, now the game begins, more concentration, more technical depth, more strategies, yes u can lift that trophy, fight on, pray very hard as well, we can manage Burkina boys verysolid2001 well if you strategize enough.the boys must show sheer determination and mental correctness

  4. ONYIAUKE NA UMUOJI on

    GOD HAS DONE IT AGAIN FOR NIGERIA, SUPER EAGLES BEATS MALI 4-1 GLORY BE TO ALMIGHTY GOD, MY PRAYERS DID NOT GO IN VAIN, ABOUT THE PREDICT AND WIN PROMO, WE HAD ABOUT 107 CONTESTANT BUT NOBODY GET IT RIGHT, EXCEPT ONE NUMBER THAT PREDICTED 4-0 BUT THE MALI TEAM PROVED HER WRONG BY SCORING ONE GOAL. THE PREDICT AND WIN PROM IS STILL ON, PREDICT THE FINAL SCORE, FOR THE FINAL MATCH BETWEEN NIGERIA AND BURKINA FASO, AND WIN MTN RECHARGE CARD, SEND YOUR PREDICTIONS TO THIS NUMBER 07034740026, THERE IS NO HARM IN TRIAL, I WISH YOU AND SUPER EAGLES GOODLUCK AND GODS PROTECTIONS IN JESUS MIGHTY NAME AMEN.

  5. ONYIAUKE NA UMUOJI on

    PREDICT AND WIN PROMO, WE HAD ABOUT 107 CONTESTANT BUT NOBODY GET IT RIGHT, OUR RECHARGE CARD IS STILL WITH US WAITING FOR THE LUCKY ONE, YOU STILL HAVE CHANCES OF WINNING THE PRIZE BY PREDICTING THE FINAL SCORE FOR THE MATCH BETWEEN NIGERIA AND BURKINA FASO IN THE FINAL MATCH, SEND YOUR PREDICTIONS TO THIS NUMBER 07034740026,THANKS, AND GOD BLESS YOU.

  6. Keshi who was the rejected stone when the tournament began have now become the pillar of Nigerian soccer. Our problem in Nigeria is impatience. Thank God Stephen Keshi has been vindicated after he failed the biddings of the previledge few who saw it as a crime not fielding some proffessional players. The God that started this feat shall see us through victory at the end. Amen

  7. Stephen should tell the players to be very smart, to avoid what happened in USA 94 against Italy.
    The Bokinafaso are too rough. There plans now will be to bring down our best player at the begining of the final march undermining reds cards. Then at the end will play defencive game.

  8. I give all the glory,ado ration,honour and every good taught in me to God almighty for being with the Nig erian Super Eagles in their determined effo rt to dis-prove all detractors who never wished them and their Coach, the big Boss,KESHI well,due to their selfish,hate and mordid desire to impose White skinned Coach on Nigerians. With the continued superlative performan ce of our darling team ,the Super Eagles over their opponents, Im sure God has position d,the Coach,the Big Boss and his boys to lift the African Cup of Nations Cup,this time to his glory,honour and admiration of the Surporters and non- Surporters of the team,as he is the Alfa and Omega,whom all powers on earth belongs to.Thank you mighty eagles,you are all wonderfull made.

  9. Alhaji Dan-azumi Gana on

    Alhaji Onyeike or whatever you called yourself, do you know the meaning of Allah at all ? do you also know the meaning of Alhaji you claimed as part of your name ? Onyeike, tell me, what is wrong in Yusuff’s comment ? you are an ignorant, GBAM.

  10. kudos to Super Eagle of Nigeria…wishing you all super winning points above other leagues and to the end of this African cup of nations… more stylist and creative minds.

  11. THE DEFEAT AGAINST IVORY COAST IS THE BEGINNING OF GOOD THINGS TO COME FOR NIGERIANS. I HAVE ALREADY PREDICTED BEFORE MALI’S MATCH, THAT THE SUPER EAGLES ARE GOING TO WIN THE NATIONS CUP IRRESPECTIVE OF WHO QUALIFIERS BETWEEN GHANA AND BURKINA FASO. UP EAGLES! AND UP 9JA!

  12. Nigeria 1 Bourkina Fasso 2. Due to disloyalty and corruption in all parastata in Nigeria, Super of Nigeria will lose to Bourkinefe boys on Sunday. Take it or leave it.

  13. Nigeria 1 Bourkina Fasso 2. Due to disloyalty and corruption in all parastata in Nigeria, Super Eagle of Nigeria will lose to Bourkinefe boys on Sunday. Take it or leave it.

  14. Oduduwa or watever u cal urself u ar a big fool.i knw yoruba 4 being treacherous n u ar dia product.nigeria wud win weda u idiot beliv or nt

  15. Indeed the stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. It’s d Lord’s doing & it’s marvellous in our eyes. I was one of those dt were cynical about ds feat. Glory 2 God above! May dz EAGLES b lifted up higher dt they may sup with d princes of God’s ppl & drink with d golden trophy in d name of JESUS CHRIST D LORD, AMEN!

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