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Malians gather for Cup of Nations semifinal soccer match against Nigeria

Pascal Guyot / AFP - Getty Images

Malian supporters watch on Feb. 6, on a television in the center of the northern Malian city of Douentza a 2013 African Cup of Nations semi-final football match between Mali and Nigeria in Durban, South Africa.

Ben Stansall / AFP - Getty Images

Mali's defender Mahamadou Ndiaye (L) vies with Nigeria's forward Ahmed Musa (C) during the 2013 African Cup of Nations semi-final football match Mali vs Nigeria on Feb. 6, in Durban. Nigeria won 4-1.

By Richard Farley, NBC Sports

Published at 6:15pm ET: The match always had the potential for goals, but few would have predicted such a lopsided result. With four goals in a 35-minute span starting mid-first half, Nigeria qualified for their first Africa Cup of Nations final in 13 years, eliminating Mali 4-1.

In some ways the result was just as impressive as Sunday’s quarterfinal defeat of tournament favorites Cote d’Ivoire. While the Malians are not held in the same regard as Les Elephants, the Super Eagles put on a more impressive show, leaving little doubt the project initiated by Stephen Keshi — one that left many of the team’s highest profile, most-capped players out — has come good.

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Sunday Alamba / AP

Nigeria soccer fans celebrate after Nigeria soccer player Elderson Echiejile scored a goal against Mali, during an African Cup of Nations semi final match in Lagos, Nigeria, on Feb. 6. Nigeria cruised to a 4-1 win over Mali on Wednesday to reach the African Cup final for the first time in more than a decade.