Nigeria hope to extend an unbeaten run over Mali in Wednesday's Africa Cup of Nations semi-final while odds-on favourites Ghana are looking to secure their ninth final appearance when they clash with Burkina Faso.

After a laboured group-phase campaign, the Super Eagles defied the odds last Sunday to beat title favourites Ivory Coast 2-1 and set up an early-evening showdown against fellow west Africans the Malian Eagles at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

Mali, a country stricken by war, also proved popular expectations wrong to edge past hosts South Africa after a penalty shootout.

The countries have clashed at full international level six times with four of those matches at the Nations Cup. Nigeria won three and the others have been drawn.

Nigeria striker Emmanuel Emenike insists they have put behind them the shock 2-1 quarter-finals triumph over Ivory Coast and are focused on beating Mali because the target is to be crowned African champions a third time.

"We want to win the trophy and won't get carried away because we beat the Ivory Coast as we still have two more games to win before we can be crowned champions," said the Spartak Moscow striker, who has netted three times.

Striker Brown Ideye added: "If we can play the way we did against Ivory Coast, Mali can't stop us. It will be a different game and we won't underrate them."

Former Barcelona star Seydou Keita remains the Mali talisman, as he was last year when they finished third in Gabon behind Zambia and Ivory Coast.

The 33-year-old midfielder has scored twice to keep Mali on track for a first Nations Cup triumph.

Meanwhile, four-time champions Ghana secured their 12th semi-final ticket with a robust if not spectacular 2-0 defeat of debutants Cape Verde.

The Burkinabe, shorn of their injured scoring machine Alain Traore, eked out a 1-0 extra-time win over Togo for only their second appearance at this advanced stage of the continental showcase.

Perhaps crucially, Paul Put's band of over-achievers have played all their four matches at the Mbombela Stadium.

The threadbare playing surface more resembles a children's play-pit than the venue for a match of this stature after a fungal infection triggered by heavy rainfall destroyed swathes of grass.

And Put feels his team will have a crucial advantage over Ghana, who have played all their games up to now on the pristine grass of Port Elizabeth's Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

"It's very difficult because you need one or two controls before you can play the ball, while on the training ground it's only one touch.

"So I told the players to be patient and stay well organised because with this pitch you never know." he told the BBC.

As Ivory Coast discovered to their cost against Nigeria in Rustenburg on Sunday, this competition is no respecter of the traditional African football hierarchy.

So despite Ghana coming in a massive 66 rungs above Burkina Faso in FIFA's world rankings, only a fool would rule out the Stallions' chances.

"What I know is that we will play with confidence," Put ventured.

"Nelspruit is our ground. Ghana are a great team, but we've already come up against Nigeria and Zambia (both matches ending in stalemate). You never know."

The West Australian

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