Nigeria’s "Super Eagles" have beaten Mali to reach the championship match of the Africa Cup of Nations and will play Burkina Faso who beat Ghana on penalties (3-2).
The Nigerians made easy work of their semifinal, dominating from the start at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium to reach their first African Cup final in a decade.
The side went ahead after 25 minutes when a low cross by Chelsea winger Victor Moses from the right allowed defender Elderson Echiejile to net with a diving header.
They widened the gap on the half-hour mark when another low cross from the right, this time by Emmanuel Emenike, gave Brown Ideye the chance to slot the ball away.
Emenike also found his way onto the score sheet, netting a fourth goal of the tournament on 44 minutes. The Spartak Moscow striker’s edge-of-box free kick took a deflection to beat goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa, making the halftime break all the more miserable for a now-deflated Mali side.
The difference in class was underlined in the second half when substitute Ahmed Musa burst clear onto an inch-perfect pass from John Obi Mikel to net the fourth on 60 minutes.
Mali prevented Nigeria from going home with a clean sheet as Cheick Diarra hit home for Mali in the 75th minute, but it was scant consolation as the "Super Eagles" progressed to their seventh Africa Cup of Nations final.
Burkina Faso venture into unkown
Nigeria will face last-round debutantes on Sunday in Johannesburg, after Burkina Faso booked their place in a penalty shootout against Ghana.
Ghana and Burkina Faso met in Nelspruit competing for the other place in the final at Soccer City stadium in Soweto. After extra time their semifinal match finished 1-1. Burkina Faso then won 3-2 on penalties.
Burkina Faso's dangerous winger Jonathan Pitroipa was sent off towards the end of a tense 30 additional minutes, when he was adjudged to have dived. Pitroipa received his second yellow of the game and will therefore miss the final.
Ghana took the early advantage in the evening fixture, with Mubarak Wakaso putting his side ahead from the spot after 13 minutes.
Aristide Bance, who is having a miserable season in the German Bundesliga with Augsburg, tied the score around the hour-mark - capitalizing on an error from Agyeman Badu. Badu was also one of the unfortunate Ghanaians, along with Keba Paul, to have his crucial spot kick saved in the penalty shootout by Burkina Faso keeper Fatau Dauda.
rc, msh/mkg (AP, dpa, AFP)