Mali boss Patrice Carteron is buoyed by the ‘special spirit’ in his squad as they prepare for their quarterfinal matchup with Nigeria.
"We showed a very good mentality in the games against Ghana and Congo. A special spirit emerged and it made me feel better, stronger," he said ahead of Wednesday's semi-final at the Moses Mabhida stadium.
"When we started three weeks ago, most of my players had not played for a while. We knew it would be very difficult to win the first game against Niger, but beat them 1-0.
"Then against Ghana (lost 1-0) and Congo (drew 1-1) we played with a lot of confidence and now I think everything is possible.
"I think it was more difficult a few months ago and when the country was invaded. Now the players just want to give a present back to the country.
"The atmosphere in Mali is unbelievable - people are much happier because we are getting close to the end of the war and because the national football team is in the semi-finals. It is a fantastic story."
Mali earned a place in the last four by defeating hosts South Africa via a 3-1 penalty shootout win after a 1-1 draw on Saturday.
Captain Seydou Keita who has been arguably been the best player in the tournament, said the team needed to concentrate on their aim of becoming African champions for the first time.
"The motivation not only comes from what is happening back home but also to stay focused on the game and get through to the final," Keita said.
Goalkeeper Soumalia Djakite, who was the hero in the penalty shootout, saving two spot-kicks will make way for Mamadou Samassa who was suspended for the quarter-final Carteron indicated.
Stephen Keshi will look to become the second two win the Nations Cup title as a coach and a player after Egyptian Mahmoud El Gohary, who won the title in 1959 as a player and in 1998 as Pharaohs the coach. Keshi captained Nigeria to the title in 1994, but first his side must get past his former team Mali who Keshi lead before being fired in 2010.
"Mali is a footballing nation with great talent, I saw it in my two years there. I have a lot of respect for them and a lot of admiration for the Mali team and the players," Keshi said.
"But we are preparing ourselves. It will be an even tougher game than against the Ivory Coast. We will use whatever God gave us to play football and we will try and put it all together against Mali."
Keshi must decide if he will return Fegor Ogude to the starting line-up in midfield after the Norwegian-based played missed the quarterfinal through injury, or retain the more versatile Ogenyi Onazi who was outstanding in their 2-1 victory over Cote d’Ivoire.