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Nigeria scrape through as Mali bow out

Nigeria scraped into the Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals on goal difference after beating Benin 2-0 on Tuesday to set up an appetising clash with hosts and arch-rivals Ghana.

The Super Eagles pipped Mali, thumped 3-0 by Côte d’Ivoire in the other Group B game, after both finished level on four points. Captain Didier Drogba was on target as the Ivorians, already qualified, completed a clean sweep in the group.

Off the field, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) handed a dossier on attempted match-fixing to Ghanaian police. after Benin and Namibia last week said they were approached by an unidentified man and offered money to throw games.

CAF general secretary Mustapha Fahmy said the dossier included statements from those approached and contact details given by a man purporting to represent betting interests in Singapore.

”We have asked them to do a thorough investigation and have given them all the details we were able to collect,” Fahmy told Reuters.

In Sekondi, Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel scored one goal and set up another as Nigeria won at last.

Obi Mikel headed in a Peter Odemwingie cross after Benin keeper Yoann Djidonou had failed to clear a Taye Taiwo free kick in the 52nd minute, their first goal of the tournament.

He then set up striker Yakubu Aiyegbeni for the second with four minutes left.

At the end of the match, members of the Nigerian technical staff lifted sheepish-looking coach Berti Vogts into the air in celebration.

Balls criticised

Mali needed a draw in Accra but were quickly in trouble as Drogba marked his 50th cap with a 32nd international goal.

Marc Zoro, playing his first competitive match in more than six months, rose unmarked to head home from a corner in the 54th minute and Boubacar Sanogo scored his first international goal five minutes from the end.

”We are extremely disappointed,” said Mali coach Jean-Francois Jodar. ”My team did not play at all in the first half and with a lot of attackers in the second half we still failed to find the goal.”

Côte d’Ivoire face Guinea in their quarterfinal while Nigeria travel to Accra to face the hosts, who have a 100% record in the tournament.

Ghana coach Claude Le Roy told a news conference that he expected to be sacked if his side did not win the trophy.

”If we are not champions, I’m sure a new coach will come in my place,” he said. ”I understand my deal and that is to win the cup.”

Tuesday’s goals took the tournament’s tally to 63 in 20 games but South Africa goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs was not impressed, saying the ball was at fault.

”It makes goalkeepers look like idiots,” he said. ”It isn’t that the guys have been scoring good goals, it’s the ball which has been making the guys look good.” – Reuters

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