AFCON 2013: Mali v Nigeria Preview
His replacement, Soumalia Diakite, will drop to the bench, despite saving two penalties in the quarter-final shoot-out win against hosts South Africa.
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“We are hoping that we can make the people back home very happy”
Mamadou Samassa Mali forward
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 laboured through the first phase and only clinched qualification in the last 10 minutes of their final Group C game against Ethiopia.
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.
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.”