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Last Updated: Friday, 13 February, 2004, 15:50 GMT
Nigeria secure third place
By Mohammed Fajah Barrie
BBC Sport, Monastir

Jay-Jay Okocha celebrates his goal
Okocha enjoys the goal that makes him joint top scorer in Tunisia

Nigeria 2-1 Mali

Nigeria secured third place in the Cup of Nations for the second time in successive tournaments. Jay-Jay Okocha opened the scoring with a deflected free-kick early in the first half.

The Bolton midfielder then created the second with a well-placed cross which Osaze Odemwingie headed home.

Mali dragged one back through Janvier Abouta whose left-footed volley flashed past Vincent Enyeama for one of the goals of the tournament.

I am happy because we haven't returned home empty-handed - but our wish was to win the Nations Cup
Nigeria's Jay-Jay Okocha

After a slow start, Mali were the first to make a positive move when Dramane Traore dribbled into the box only to see his shot deflected behind for the first corner of the match.

Yet Nigeria countered immediately, as Pius Ikedia, whose speed and dribbling skills caused constant problems in the Malian defence, cut in from the right flank to win the Super Eagles a corner of their own.

Ikedia's burst was a sign of things to come and minutes later, Mali's Sammy Traore was booked for his untidy challenge on the lively Nigerian.

From the resulting free-kick, Nigeria made their opponents pay an even greater penalty.

MONASTIR MOMENTS
17 mins: Okocha fires Nigeria in front
47 mins: Odemwingie heads home Nigeria's second
70 mins: Abouta volleys a consolation goal for Mali

BBC African Footballer of the Year Jay-Jay Okocha shot from 30 yards, and his low drive deflected off Eagles captain Mahamadou Diarra to beat Mahamadou Sidibe in the Mali goal.

The goal stirred Mali into action, with the 2002 Nations Cup hosts soon creating a flurry of chances.

Djibril Sidibe fired over from 30 yards, Mahamadou Diarra struck a well-hit shot just wide of the Nigerian goal from the edge of the box before Dramane Traore flashed another shot across Super Eagles keeper Vincent Enyeama.

Yet Nigeria created the better chances and Okocha almost set up Odemwingie shortly before half-time as the latter just failed to reach the Super Eagles captain's measured cross.

The move should have been a warning to the Mali defence, but just one minute into the second half the same players combined to score a finely-crafted goal.

I am disappointed because we failed to clinch the third place which would have mean a lot to us but our future is bright
Mali striker Frederic Kanoute

From a free-kick, Okocha played a neat one-two with Ifeanyi Udeze before curling a delightful cross deep into the Malian box which Odemwingie needed only direct on target to score his third goal of the tournament.

Just when it seemed Nigeria might increase their lead, most notably through the powerful running of forward John Utaka, Mali halved the deficit.

Enyeama had saved well from a fine 30-yard free-kick from Djibril Sidibe on the hourmark, but the Nigerian keeper could do nothing to stop forward Janvier Abouta scoring on his Nations Cup debut ten minutes later.

Abouta received a long pass on the left-hand side of the penalty area from Sidibe in the centre-circle and let the ball bounce once before drilling a volley across Enyeama to bring Mali back into the game.

Yet it was too little too late from the Eagles, and just as they did in 2002 the Malians finished fourth in the tournament behind their west African rivals.


Nigeria: 1-Vincent Enyeama; 2-Joseph Yobo, 6-Joseph Enakahire, 15-George Abbey (18-Romanus Orjinta 46), 16-Ifeanyi Udeze; 19-Ikpe Ekong, 21-Ifeanyi Ekueme (11-Garba Lawal 90+4), 10-Austin Okocha, 13-Pius Ikedia (4-Nwankwo Kanu 78), 7-John Utaka; 20-Osaze Odemwingie

Mali: 1-Mahamadou Sidibe; 2-Souleymane Diamoutene (13-Ibrahima Kone 90), 3-Fousseiny Diawara, 4-Adama Coulibaly, 17-Sammy Traore; 6-Mahamadou Diarra, 11-Djibril Sidibe, 18-Mohamed Lamine Sissokho (14-David Coulibaly 90+2); 9-Janvier Abouta, 19-Frederic Kanoute (7-Mamady Sidibe 65), 20-Dramane Traore

Referee: Modou Sowe (The Gambia)




WATCH AND LISTEN
Nigeria coach Christian Chukwu
"We came to win but this is a good consolation"



SEE ALSO
Chukwu predicts bright future
12 Feb 04  |  African



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