AFCON: Preview – Mali vs Nigeria

Africa Cup of Nations semi-final

Venue: Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban
Date: Wednesday, 6 February
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT

Mali goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa is set to return to the starting XI for Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations semi-final against Nigeria after suspension.

His replacement, Soumalia Diakite, will drop to the bench, despite saving two penalties in the quarter-final shoot-out win against hosts South Africa.

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi, who was sacked by Mali in 2010, has a fully-fit squad to choose from.

Super Eagles midfielder Fegor Ogude is available after a one-match suspension.

Mali, who have never won the Cup of Nations, are aiming to better their third-place finish in the 2012 tournament by beating Nigeria in Durban.

Eagles forward Mamadou Samassa, the cousin of the goalkeeper with the name same, believes success for the 1972 runners-up can help bring joy to a country which is currently troubled by political unrest.

“Of course it is not nice to see what is happening, but we are hoping that we can make the people back home very happy,” said the Chievo player. “We know that football can unite people and heal many things.”

One of African football’s heavyweight nations, the pressure on two-time winners Nigeria to succeed is always high from Super Eagles supporters.

But, with a relatively inexperienced side, they struggled through the group phase. However, expectations of a third trophy, following successes in 1980 and 1994, have been increased by their last-eight win against tournament favourites Ivory Coast.

Players to watch:

Nigeria: John Mikel Obi, Victor Moses, Emmanuel Emenike.

Mali: Seydou Keita, Mohammed Sissoko and Modibo Maiga.



NIGERIA: (4-3-3)

Enyeama – Ambrose, Omeruo, Oboabona, Echejile – Mikel, Onazi, Mba – Emenike, Ideye, Moses

MALI: (4-3-3)

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

The match will be played at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Duban and kicks off by 4pm (Nigerian time).

Mali coach Patrice Carteron:

“The players have been taking it easy. We had a physically taxing match against South Africa, the players need time to recover.

“It’s important for the players to focus on our next match. But first, we relax.

“The target for us has been to improve on what the team achieved last year and so far we are on course to doing so.”

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi:

“Somehow, the Nigeria fans don’t appreciate their players. But I know my team, I know their mentality. I know the boys I picked were right, I have confidence in them.

“Mali is a football nation, they have great talent. I have a lot of admiration for Mali’s team, for the players.

“It is a great shame what is going on in Mali. What is happening is something we should not be proud of.

“I know their players will be thinking about it, and that is where they are getting their power from, their spirit, their force. They are thinking: ‘Let us do this for our country’ and I think that’s where their force is coming from.”


Leave a Reply