THE African Cup of Nations group-stage is coming to a conclusion. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) unearths the value from Monday’s final Group C contest between Senegal and Algeria.
Zimbabwe v Tunisia | Monday 19:00 | Eurosport
Zimbabwe and Tunisia go head-to-head in Libreville knowing that a place in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final is up for grabs.
Tunisia were written off ahead of their matchday two encounter with Algeria, arriving on the back of a 2-0 defeat to Senegal. Only a victory would have sufficed but the Carthage Eagles produced an excellent display in their 2-1 triumph against their north African rivals to blow the pool wide open.
There was a slice of fortunate about the goals – Youssef Msakni’s cross was diverted into his own net by Algeria’s Aissa Mandi and some dreadful defending by Faouzi Ghoulam lead to Wahbi Khazri putting away the second from the penalty spot.
Algeria pulled a goal back but never looked like levelling matters and Tunisia head coach Henryk Kasperczak was understandably enthused by his side’s display. A draw at Stade d’Angondje will now be enough to see the 2004 champions reach the quarter-finals.
Important midfield cog
Kasperczak will have been pleased by Kazri’s impact having been left out of the opener. But Mohamed Amine Ben Amor will arguably be more important on Monday night with the Carthage Eagles likely to sit back, soak up pressure before attempting to play on the counter-attack through Khazri. It’s what they do.
Ben Amor made more tackles and recovered possession on more occasions than any of his team-mates in the win over Algeria, and his positional discipline will be imperative against a pacey counter-attacking threat from Zimbabwe here.
Goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi is a fitness concern and centre-back Aymen Abdennour hasn’t been at his best but Ben Amor’s efforts in screening the defence should be pivotal towards any positive result picked up.
Tunisia have shipped goals in all bar one of their last 14 AFCON finals matches but only one of the last five goals they’ve conceded arriving from open play and I’d be confident the side has enough in the tank to keep Zimbabwe at arms length.
Warriors running out of gas?
The Warriors put in a gutsy effort against Algeria in their opener but were overwhelmed by Senegal and fortunate to finish with just a two-goal defeat. Head coach Kalisto Pasuwa felt his side were intimidated by Senegal’s physical approach and has challenged his players to rise to the occasion.
Star forward Khama Billiat wasted a good chance for Zimbabwe just before half-time against Senegal but in truth they were convincing losers and although Zimbabwe could still progress if they beat Tunisia and Algeria lose to Senegal, I have to question their ability to rise to the occasion once more.
The Warriors have leaked twice in both of their openers and whilst Billiat and Kudakwashe Mahachi have caused problems in the final third, it’s the defence that’s likely to prove their undoing.
Playing to their strengths
Tunisia are a robust outfit – organised and difficult to breakdown. In theory, the state of play suits the Carthage Eagles to a tee and should Zimbabwe push too hard, they could easily end up on the wrong side of an ugly result.
The money has come for Tunisia in the past 48 hours but there’s still decent value in 5/6 (Paddy Power) quotes for Kasperczak’s charges to seal progression with a win.
Zimbabwe v Tunisia – Tunisia to win (5/6 Paddy Power)
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