•Photo: Super Eagles fans celebrating Nigeria’s semi-final victory over Mali in the on-going African Cup of Nations …on Wednesday.:
Super Eagles of Nigeria on Wednesday booked a place in the final of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations tournament after thrashing its Malian counterpart 4-1 in the first semifinal match at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, South Africa.
Eagles opened scoring in the 25th minute through defender Elderson Uwa Echiejile who headed in a low ball from a Victor Moses cross after the Chelsea forward dribbled his way past Adama Tamboura.
The Nigerian side increased the tally in the 30th minute after Moses set up striker Emmanuel Emenike, who in turn squared the ball across for Brown Ideye who directed a shot past Malian goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa.
Emenike got the opportunity to put his name on the scorers’ sheet and did so in style in the 44th minute through a free kick from just 25 yards out.
Emenike’s shot deflected after the ball touched Mohamed Sissoko’s leg, sending Samassa the wrong way.
Ahmed Musa completed the rout for the Eagles with a fourth goal in the 60th minute.
Musa, who was brought in by Keshi in the 53rd minute, latched onto a pass, broke the offside trap to get in behind Mali’s defence and went in one-on-one with goalkeeper Samassa, scoring by placing the ball through the legs of the goalkeeper to connect the bottom left corner of the goal.
But in the 75th minute, Cheikh Diarra got a consolatory goal for the Malians after Cheikh Diabate was let through by the Nigerian defence and he picked out Diarra who placed his shot into the bottom right hand corner of the goal.
The scoreline in this triumph equals Nigeria’s biggest win in the history of the Africa Cup of Nations, which was the 4-0 win over South Africa in 2004.
Coach of the team, Stephen Keshi could not hold back his joy while speaking at a post-match conference.
Keshi noted that the players’ discipline, tactics and the condition in camp were responsible for the victory.
“There was discipline in the camp, the players were determined and so everything just fell into place. We thank God that we are in the final,” he said.
Meanwhile, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Enoch Adeboye, and renowned economist, Pat Utomi, who both expressed joy at the Super Eagles’ victory sent congratulatory messages to the team immediately after the match.
Adeboye, in the message posted on his facebook page, charged the Super Eagles to continue to commit their ways unto God.
“Trust God where you cannot trace Him; congrats to the Super Eagles. Keep committing your ways unto God and He will see you through in Jesus name,” Adeboye prayed. Utomi in his own message said with the victory, the Super Eagles had given him a precious birthday gift.
“Thank you, Super Eagles, for giving me the best gift I could ever imagine on my 57th birthday,” Utomi said.
Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Managing Director of the United Bank for Africa (UBA), Tony Elumelu, also joined other Nigerians in rejoicing with the Super Eagles.
They posted congratulatory messages on their respective Twitter accounts after the match.
“Congratulations to our Super Eagles. Determination and focus are key imperatives for success,” Elumelu posted.
“Congratulations to our wonderful Super Eagles! You have soared and shown how great we can be as a nation. We love you,” OKonjo-Iweala said.
Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola was also full of thanks and prayers. He told the team that the target remains the coveted trophy.
Other Nigerians that congratulated the team included Obafemi Martins whose absence from the team has continued to generate arguments across the country.
“Congratulations to the Super Eagles and Nigerians,” an elated Martins posted.
Also congratulating the team was top Musician, Banky Wellington.