Goals from Elderson Echiejile, Emmanuel Emenike and Musa Ahmed, plus an own-goal from ex-Liverpool midfielder Momo Sissoko, secured the Super Eagles’ place in the final, while Cheick Diarra grabbed a late consolation.
Keshi had stated his desire to become only the second man to win the competition as a player and a manager, and credited his side’s spirit as the key to reaching the final.
“Nigerians have waited a long time for this moment,” said Keshi.
“[They] have missed out a great deal in the last few years – my goal was to put smile on Nigerians.
“We knew that Mali will give us a tough time, but we knew that they are a little bit slow and we took advantage of that.
“Mali are a good team with a top player like Seydou Keita, but they are not very fast at the back and we took advantage of this to score our first two goals.”
However Mali coach Patrice Carteron was not too disheartened by his team’s performance after guiding the 2010 finalists to the semi-finals this year.
“I’m still proud of this team – we worked hard even though we did not reach the final,” said Carteron.
“We lost against a good team that was full of confidence tonight. We played a team that just beat Cote d’Ivoire and you could see their confidence on the night.
“What happened to us tonight is very difficult. Mali has been able to reach the semi-finals before and we also achieved that – which is good.”
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