Nigeria sealed their place in the Africa Cup of Nations final after brushing aside Mali 4-1 in Durban. The Super Eagles, who defeated favourites Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals, had victory all but secured before half-time after netting three times in the first period through Elderson Echiejile, Brown Ideye and an own goal by Mohamed Sissoko.
Nigeria then added a fourth goal on the hour mark through substitute Ahmed Musa to end any hopes of a second-half fightback from Mali, whose late consolation from replacement Cheick Diarra was nowhere near enough to prevent a second successive semi-final exit.
The result sees Nigeria progress through to their seventh final and first since 2000, while Mali’s bid to repeat their 1972 appearance in the title match goes on.
Nigeria do not have a great record in those finals, winning just two of six, but they will go Sunday’s encounter against either Burkina Faso or Ghana with confidence soaring after building on their triumph over Ivory Coast with an impressive display at a rain-swept Moses Mabhida Stadium today.
Mali, who knocked out hosts South Africa in the last eight, looked threatening early on but Nigeria gradually gained the upper hand and had already gone close a couple of times before Echiejile put them ahead in the 25th minute.
Chelsea playmaker Victor Moses did well down the right to create space and his cross into the middle found the unmarked Echiejile at the far post, and he stooped to head home from close range.
It was 2-0 five minutes later when Emmanuel Emenike’s cross from the right was bundled home at the near post by Ideye, and a fantastic first period for Nigeria was completed in the 44th minute when Stephen Keshi’s men added a third goal.
Ideye played a short free-kick to Emenike whose strike looked set to be blocked by the wall, only for it to take a huge deflection off Sissoko and leave Mamadou Samassa in the Mali goal helpless.
Mali made two changes at the beginning of the second half in a bid to change the tide, but it was Nigeria’s substitution that made the next telling contribution as Musa was sent racing clear from the halfway line before slotting through Samassa’s legs to make it 4-0.
Musa then looked to have added a fifth two minutes later after skipping past Samassa and turning the ball home, but his celebrations were cut short by an offside flag.
Mali’s hopes of reaching the final were looking in tatters, but recent history suggested they were not out of it completely.
In the 2010 renewal they trailed Angola 4-0 in the group stages before netting four times in the final 11 minutes to salvage a remarkable draw.
And the Eagles were determined not to go down without a fight today and they created a number of decent opportunities in the closing stages.
However, they could only find the back of the net once, Diarra slotting home Cheick Diabate’s cut-back, and it was Nigeria who were left to celebrate at the full-time whistle.