The semi final clash between Nigeria and Mali will be epic, it has all the trappings of a classic fixture between two heavyweights in Women’s Basketball on the continent.
Between the two they share nine medals in the AfroBasket championship. Nigeria is just a title better than Mali whose only championship title came exactly a decade ago.
As hosts, Sylvain Lautie’s Ladies will count on home support and history to edge past D’Tigress when they set the Sports Palace in Bamako alight.
The Palais des Sports Salamatou Maïga has hosted every single game of the ongoing AfroBasket Women Championship and has seen some spectacular encounters.
Coming through the group stages, Nigeria was one of only two teams with 100% winning streak; the other being Angola.
However, after Friday’s shock quarter-final game between Mozambique and two-time champions Angola (61-47), Nigeria hold this championship’s record of 6-0.
D’Tigress also lead the Team Stats board, with an overwhelming margin compared to other favorites still in the race for the title.
Looking at the stats of both Nigeria and Mali before their clash later on Saturday, it’s easy to understand why Sam Vincent considers his team outright favorites for the title.
D’Tigress are not only a better side at this championship, in Guard Osaretin Akhator Nigeria has one of the biggest stars emerging from this edition.
Akhator found her inner feline early in the championship and sterling performances, game after game has put her in contention for the MVP award – if Nigeria go even further than the semis it brightens her prospects.
However, there is also the small question of the role of history between the sides.
Coach Vincent led Nigeria to her first AfroBasket title in 2003 and on that occasion lost just once; in the group stage to Mali.
The next edition on home soil, D’Tigress paid their west African neighbours back in their own coin and also defended the title.
That victory in the 2005 came in the group stage and Mfon Udoka, who is team Manager of the current side, was MVP at that tournament.
So, there’s a good understanding inside D’Tigress’ camp of the threat Mali poses to Nigeria’s chances of a third title.
Besides the number of titles, Mali, perhaps, have inflicted more pains on Nigeria than any other team in the AfroBasket.
Mali have a better head to head record against Nigeria, defeating D’Tigress six times in their seven meetings in the championship since 1974.
Head to Head :
Nigeria – (2005 Group 69–44)
Mali – (1981 Group 78–53), (2003 Group 52–46), (2009 Group 37–41), (2011 Bronze 71–62), ( 2013 Group 45–78), (2013 5th 50–57).
With all the cards on the table, this is could be an open contest and only the better side on the day will punch the card for a place in the final.
MALI’s run at the 2017 AfroBasket Women’s Championship
86 v 48 Tunisia
59 v 68 Angola
61 v 39 Ivory Coast
97 v 38 Central African Republic
69 v 35 Cameroon
90 v 50 Egypt
Nigeria’s run at the 2017 AfroBasket Women’s Championship
80 v 69 Mozambique
84 v 47 DR Congo
106 v 72 Egypt
106 v 33 Guinea
58 v 54 Senegal
98 v 43 Ivory Coast