Mon | Apr 27, 2015

Nigeria, Mali seek breakthrough

Published:Wednesday | February 6, 2013

DURBAN, South Africa (AP):

Too many close calls in the last decade have left Nigeria and Mali with subdued confidence of making the African Cup final from their clash today.

Mali have advanced to the semi-finals for the second straight time, and fourth overall since 2002, but they haven't reached the final since 1972.

Nigeria made it to the semis in six of the last eight tournaments, but haven't reached the final since 2000.

A two-time champion, Nigeria arrive slightly favoured to progress after getting past Ivory Coast's star-filled squad in the quarter-finals. The Super Eagles are led by Chelsea duo Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel and also count on Spartak Moscow striker Emmanuel Emenike.

Mali, who eliminated host South Africa in the quarters, will be led by former Barcelona playmaker Seydou Keita.

going to be tough

"We know the Malians, they are going to be a very tough team to play against. And they know us as well," Nigeria captain Joseph Yobo said yesterday. "I think there are no favourites. This is the bridge that we have between here and the final so we are going to do everything that we can to win."

Both teams are coming off big victories in the quarter-finals. Nigeria shocked Didier Drogba's Ivory Coast 2-1 in Rustenburg and Mali overcame home-crowd favourites South Africa in a penalty shootout 3-1.

Nigeria lost to Ghana 1-0 in their previous semi-final in 2010. They lost to Cameroon on penalties when they last reached the final in 2000.

Mali, playing in the tournament for the seventh straight time, reached last year's semi-final, but lost 1-0 to Ivory Coast, eventually finishing third in what was their best appearance since the loss to Congo in the 1972 final.

"This is our fourth semi-final, so we truly want to make it to the final and we will do everything we can to make it happen," the 33-year-old Keita said.