Tunisia vs Cape Verde Islands | Sunday 18 January | Ebebiyín | 21:00
Georges Leekens’ enchanting Tunisia side will be looking to start their campaign on the right foot but face a stern test against the Blue Sharks of the Cape Verde Islands, who delivered impressive performances during the qualifiers when they became, along with Algeria, the first of two nations to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.
To Win (90mins)
Cape Verde Islands 5/2
It seems almost unjust that Tunisia, who conquered the African continent in 2004, have won this tournament just once. The Eagles of Carthage came agonisingly close to lifting the title back in 1996 and deserved better than fourth position in 2000. Tunisia are currently the third ranked team in Africa and 31st in the world. The North Africans went undefeated during their qualifying campaign and finished one point clear of a dangerous looking Senegal side in Group G. They managed four wins and two goalless draws away to Senegal and Botswana. Tunisia play an attacking brand of football and have some dangerous attacking players. Their most important player, who has been arguably the most impressive attacking player in qualification for this tournament has been their captain, Yassine Chikhaoui. Majestic on the ball and deceptively deft for a man of his size, the FC Zurich star has delivered the sort of performances for club and country this season that now make observers understand Tunisians’ classification of him as a type of Zinedine Zidane.
Cape Verde Islands
Cape Verde were among the first two teams to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations and there has never been any doubt that they deserved to be the winners of Group F after a rigorous qualifying campaign. The Blue Sharks picked up four victories from six matches, losing just twice on their travels to Mozambique and Zambia, but did manage to beat those two sides in their homeland. An aspect about Cape Verde which is often taken for granted, and sometimes even ignored, is that they are currently the fourth ranked team in Africa. The only nations ahead of them are Algeria, the Ivory Coast and Tunisia. The Blue Sharks have not had overwhelming success in African competition in the past, having first secured passage to the continental showpiece in South Africa 2013. Nevertheless, under the tutelage of head coach Rui Aguas, the small island nation is increasingly starting to show they have what it takes to square off against the best.
VERDICT: Tunisia 11/10
Tunisia are unbeaten in their last six matches with four victories and have won the last two meetings against Cape Verde, scoring five goals while conceding just one. Back the Eagles of Carthage to reign supreme at a tantalizing 11/10.