Blunt Nigeria can’t beat Mali

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The result means that the Super Eagles now need the Ivory Coast to beat Mali when the two teams meet in their final group game on January 29 to have any chance of progressing to the quarterfinals. They will have to beat Benin as well, but will be disappointed that qualification is largely out of their own hands.

Should the Ivorians and Mali draw, both will progress to the next round.

1 mins: Nigeria get us underway …

6 mins: An early free-kick chance for Mali on the left after good work from Amadou Sidibe is cleared by the Super Eagles. Nigeria’s early tactic seems to be to hit long balls up for Martins and Yakubu to chase, but it is a nervy beginning for the men in green. They need to settle down and spend time on the ball.

11 mins: First shot of the game comes from Yakubu, but he is penalized for a push on the defender. The goalkeeper saved comfortably in any event. Nsofor shoots high and wide at the back post when he had more time.

16 mins: Tamboura makes space on the left, but his shot-cum-cross is fired across goal and away for a goal-kick. Shittu has to come across quickly to prevent Kanoute reaching the ball as Mali begin to apply pressure to the Nigeria goal. A succession of crosses see the Super Eagles scrambling in defence, seemingly unable to clear the ball.

21 mins: Martins unleashes a 25-yard drive that goalkeeper Mahamadou Sidibe has to stretch to save, but he claws the ball in. Yakubu is next to shoot at goal, but his effort from 10 yards lacks venom and Sidibe saves comfortably.

26 mins: Martins tries an extravagant flick over his head from a cross that goes high and wide. Nigeria are creating more goalscoring opportunities, but look panicked when Mali attack them. The game is still being played at a frenetic pace.

31 mins: Good work from Taiwo on the left leads to a Nigeria corner. Odemwingie drives it in low, but Olofinjana’s header clears the bar. Yobo just clears from Traore, who would have had a clear header on goal.

36 mins: Nigeria are now camped in the Mali half and have had seven shots on goal to their opponents one, but the Malians are winning the midfield battle, forcing the Super Eagles to hit long, hopeful balls.

41 mins: Martins fires over again. Nigeria’s shooting so far has been poor. Olofinjana gets the first YELLOW CARD for a foul on Keita. Traore fires wide from distance. Liverpool’s Sissoko goes down in the area after a challenge from Everton’s Yobo in a battle from Merseyside, but the referee waves play on. Surely he should have booked the Malian for diving then?

HALFTIME: Coulibaly meets Keita’s free-kick at the back post, but his header flies over the bar. The half ends 0-0. Nigeria had the better of the play, but were let down by poor finishing. Vogts needs to regroup his players at the break. There is a big 45 minutes coming for the Super Eagles.

46 mins: Mali get the second half on the go.

51 mins: John Utaka comes on to replace Martins at the break. Yakubu crosses and the keeper just gets fingertips to hit to knock the ball out of the path of the onrushing Nsofor. The Nigerian defence stands off Keita, who is allowed all the time in the world to line up a shot and only the brilliance of Ejide prevents Nigeria going 1-0 down. Kanoute then fires wide.

56 mins: Utaka almost sets-up Odemwingie, but the latter’s first touch is poor and the chance is gone. A lovely turn from Traore almost gets the striker on goal, but his can’t get his shot away.

61 mins: Yakubu has a shot blocked after good link-up play, but Nigeria are threatening less in this half, just when they need to be going forward. Odemwingie is replaced by Ikechukwu Uche.

66 mins: Super Eagles players are opting to pass when they should be shooting. Somebody needs to take responsibility. Diarra almost gets his head to a corner, with the ball eventually reaching Kanoute, but he can’t score.

71 mins: Shittu shoots from all of 40 yards, but the keeper saves. Nigeria just aren’t seeing enough of the ball in and around the Mali box and at this rate you just can’t see them scoring.

76 mins: Uche has a chance at the back post, but his shot on the turn is weak and the keeper saves easily. Traore comes off and is replaced by Mamadou Diallo. A lot of the quality has gone out of the game, but it is coming to crunch time for the Super Eagles.

81 mins: Utaka chases a long ball and gets one-on-one with the defender, but once again can’t get a shot away. Yakubu has the ball in the back of the net, but the goal is disallowed for offside. It looks like the correct decision. Is it going to be one of those nights?

86 mins: Sissoko makes way for Drissa Diakite. Keita hits the crossbar! The Malian midfielder shoots from 25 yards and Ejide is beaten, but the ball hits the bar and goes over. Obi flashes a drive past the far upright from 30 yards. Another shot from Keota, this time straight at Ejide. Nsofor is replaced by striker Stephen Makinwa. Diarra gets a YELLOW CARD and will miss the game against the Ivory Coast.

FULLTIME: Amadou Sidibe is replaced by Souleymane Dembele. Makinwa shoots from the edge of the box, but the keeper saves easily. Olofinjana almost heads into the path of Makinwa, but the ball just eludes the striker four yards out.

MATCH STATS

Nigeria 12 Austin Ejide, 5 Obinna Nwaneri, 6 Dan Shittu, 3 Taye Taiwo, 2 Joseph Yobo, 10 John Mikel Obi, 14 Seyi Olofinjana, 9 Obafemi Martins, 18 Obinna Nsofor, 11 Peter Odemwingie, 8 Ayegbeni Yakubu

Mali 1 Mahamadou Sidibe, 4 Adama Coulibaly, 5 Souleymane Diamoutene, 15 Cedric Kante, 9 Amadou Sidibe, 3 Adama Tamboura, 6 Mahamadou Diarra, 12 Seydou Keita, 20 Mohamed Sissoko, 19 Frederic Kanouté, 10 Dramane Traore

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