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Football | Afcon

Nigerian fans © backpagepics

Durban ready for battle of the birds



A fierce Afcon semifinal contest is expected to play out between Nigeria's Super Eagles and The Eagles of Mali at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Wednesday.

Patrice Carteron's men come into this tie after edging hosts, South Africa in the quarterfinals via penalties while the team of Stephen Keshi stunned pre-tournament favourites, Cote d'Ivoire to reach the last four.

The Nigerians are favourites ahead of this all-West African clash though the Malians are the most highly ranked team among the semifinalists.

Interestingly both teams finished second in their different groups.

Nigeria forward, Emmanuel Emenike, is gunning for the leading scorer of the tournament after scoring three times so far and he is tipped to score first in this match, according to bookmakers.

Keshi will have his full squad to pick from after Fegor Ogude missed the quarterfinals owing to suspension but could stick to the starting side that defeated the Ivorians.

But Mali Mohamed Sissoko and Samba Diakite are doubts and face late fitness tests for the semifinal match.

Keshi, a former coach of Mali, has called on his troops to show respect to their opponents.

"We respect every team in the competition, and we intend to approach this game the same way we approach every game," said Keshi.

But Mali captain, Seydou Keita, who has scored twice in this Afcon, is not pleased that everyone has tipped Nigeria to win.

"People keep saying that Nigeria will beat us on Wednesday because their coach Stephen Keshi knows the in and out of Mali team having coached us in the past, but that is not true," Keita said.

Keshi's men, however, have the edge going into this match as they have never lost an Afcon game to Mali since 2002.

Nigeria have beaten Mali twice out of four Afcon head-to-head meetings since 2002 with the other games ending in draws including a 0-0 draw in Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana in 2008 when both sides last met at the tournament.

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