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.
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 that 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.
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