Last Updated: 20/01/13 7:55pm
It's all over here in Port Elizabeth and Mali will be relieved to have come away from this tie with all three points. It wasn't a classic by any stretch of the imagination but that man Seydou Keita came to his side's rescue once again and bagged the all-important winner. Thank you for joining me and good night.
Maazou wastes his chance to deliver a good cross with time and space to pick out a teammate, with a ball that bypasses everyone.
Niger have upped the tempo as they go in search of an equaliser but their long-ball tactics are not troubling Mali.
Keita sweeps home from the edge of the small box after an error from Daouda under pressure from Diabate. The keeper went up for a long ball forward from Traore but only succeeded in pushing it into the path of the former Barcelona man, who made no mistake from close range.
Soumaila really should have done better there - when latching onto a cross from the left from Maazou - but his touch is poor and the chance goes a begging.
Keita smashes his shot against the crossbar after being delightfully set up by Diarra on the edge of the box following a low cross from Samassa.
Diarra delivers a good ball into the box that is just too high for Keita as Maazou drives goalward before smashing his effort over the bar.
Sidibe gets his head to a flighted ball in the box but he can't get any pace on the ball and Samassa makes a comfortable save.
The match has, for the moment, descended into a tense midfield battle with both sides trying their hardest to maintain possession.
Samassa manages to find some space in the box but hits his shot from the right-hand side into the side netting.
Mali's frustration is visible now with Niger holding their defensive line well and denying their more illustrious opponents in dangerous areas.
Samassa make a brave diving save to deny Sidibe after the striker had been set through on goal by Issoufou.
Samassa cuts inside his man before letting rip with a low shot that flies wide of the left-hand post.
Keita tries his luck from range but his effort is deflected wide for a corner. Traore's set-piece is too short and after bobbling around in the box is eventually cleared.
Kalilou Traore is kicked in the stomach by Mohamed Soumaila and Mali will have a free-kick from a central position from roughly 30 yards.
The referee has blown his whistle to signal the end of this first half. Mali have certainly had the upper hand but are yet to make their possession count. Can Niger make them pay for their profligacy? Stay tuned for the second half...
Mali force a quick breakaway, and win a corner, that is taken deep by Sigamary Diarra. Diabate gets his head to the ball but can't direct his header past Daouda.
Niger have upped the pace at the end of the first half and string a few passes together, culminating in a free-kick for a foul on Issiaka Koudize, but his free-kick into the Mali box is straight into the arms of Mahamadou Samassa.
Niger finally go on the attack but Mohamed Soumaila can't find Modibo Sidibe with his ball into the box.
Mahamane Traore is getting closer with his shooting, and after no one from Niger comes to close him down, the Mali midfielder takes two long strides towards goal, in the centre of the park, before letting rip with a shot that flies narrowly wide of the right-hand post.
Kalilou Traore is upended after a maraulding run through the centre of the park, while the resultant free-kick comes to nothing.
Daouda completely misses a deep free-kick from Seydou Keita with Cheick Diarra looking to pounce but the ball goes out for a goal-kick.
Fatoghoma Kourouma does well to head a deep cross from the left-hand side out for another corner under pressure from Diabate. The setpiece is headed clear by Koffi Dan Kowa and again Mahamane Traore tries his luck from distance with a weak shot.
Bachar concedes a free-kick in a dangerous position out wide on the left for a foul on Diarra. Mahamane Traore whips in the ball that is picked up by Kalilou Traore but his effort hits one of his own players. Mahamane Traore smashes the rebound goalward but it lacks the pace to beat Daouda.
Best chance of the half for Niger as Bachar delivers a teasing corner that is flicked on and poorly dealt with by Mohamed Chicoto before eventually falling to Molla Wague who smashes his shot goalward from a tight angle, but Mahamadou Samassa is well-placed to make the save.
Daouda makes a meal of a far-post corner from Mahamane Traore and concedes another set-piece. Sigamary Diarra delivers a great ball but Mahamadou N'Diaye can only direct his header wide of the target.
Mahamane Traore tries his luck from distance but his shot sails harmlessly past the Niger left-hand post.
Another great break forward by Diarra who is initially stopped in his tracks by Mohamed Bachar, however, the ball breaks for Mali again and Diabate delivers a cross for Diarra but he can't keep his effort down on the stretch.
Keita sets up Cheick Diarra who delivers a teasing cross from the left but the keeper is first to the ball.
Mahamane Traore makes a surging run down the left flank but eventually overruns the ball and the chance to find a teammate is lost.
Mohamed Bachar makes a great sliding challenge to stop Diabate from getting his right-hand cross in - but concedes a corner. The set-piece is played to the far post and bypasses everybody with the keeper at full stretch.
Moussa Maazou gets out wide and drives down the right flank but his cross is easily cut out by Fousseni Diawara.
Diabate is quick into the thick of the action with two shots - his first a low drive that tests Kassaly Daouda before a shot on the half volley that is easier for the keeper to deal with.
It is a very calm and composed start from Mali who look content to get as many touches on the ball as they can.
The two sides are out on the pitch and the match will begin as soon as the pre-match formalities are out of the way...
Ironically Niger has sent troops in to Mali to help quell the unrest, but beating the Eagles could undo the good work. Menas have a young team who will only compete at their second AFCON compared to Mali's fourth consecutive appearance.
However, an uprising in the far north of Mali can either sidetrack or motivate the Eagles to make it past the group stage where they will also face Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Keita will be ably assisted by former Liverpool anchorman Momo Sissoko, who makes a welcome return after a three-year hiatus to join what is mostly a team of veterans giving their final go at AFCON glory.
Last year's tournament saw Mali make it to the semi-finals guided by midfield general Seydou Keita, and this time they will be looking to the 33-year old to steer them even further in the 2013 African Cup of Nations.
These two nations are West African neighbours and they kick off their respective campaign at Port Elizabeth's impressive Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.