Zambia vs Tunisia | Thursday 22 January | Ebebiyin | 18:00
The second round of group games commence as Zambia take on Tunisia after both teams played out to 1-1 draws against DR Congo and Cape Verde respectively. The draws see all four teams level in Group B. A win for either team will put them in the driving seat to qualify for the knockout stages so an attacking game is expected.
To Win (90mins)
Zambia were denied an opening day win after DR Congo rallied to finish 1-1. Honour Janza’s men took a 1-0 halftime lead through Given Singuluma but DR Congo broke their southern neighbours’ hearts when Yannick Bolasie equalised after the hour mark. Zambia’s Kennedy Mweene was excellent between the sticks as he kept his side in the game with a couple of fine saves while skipper Rainford Kalaba’s trickery and pace down the flanks give his side a real attacking threat and he will surely be up for the challenge against the Eagles of Carthage. Since winning the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, Zambia have steadily dropped down the FIFA rankings, failing to build on their success. During the qualifiers they failed to win any of their first three matches but salvaged a place in Equatorial Guinea by winning their remaining games to finish a point behind group winners Cape Verde. Before travelling to Equatorial Guinea, Zambia were beaten 1-0 by South Africa in what was a lacklustre performance by Chipolopolo. Since leading Zambia to the cup in 2012, Emmanuel Mayuka has failed to perform for the national team. The Southampton striker links up well with his midfield but will need to get into more dangerous positions if he is to hurt the solid Tunisians.
Tunisia had to settle for a point in their opener after Cape Verde deservedly came from behind to draw 1-1. Mohamed Ali Moncer slid in the opener in the 69th minute after a goalless yet entertaining first half, but Sporting Lisbon’s Heldon levelled from the penalty spot for the Islanders. Tunisia will, in the end, be kicking themselves, for a spell of twenty minutes or so in the second half. Their style and technique looked too much for a rapidly tiring Cape Verde but the equaliser slowed Tunisia’s momentum. The Eagles, making their twelfth consecutive appearance at the Cup of Nations, lost key forwards Saber Khalifa and Fakhreddine Ben Youssef to injury before the tournament started but Wahbi Khazri and goalscorer Mohamed Ali Moncer have stood out as Tunisia’s creative force and will be the go-to players here. Captain Yassine Chikhaoui plays as an attacking midfielder, and the FC Zurich man’s ability for sublime goals will be needed in his team’s cautious approach to matches. Their defensive minded style that favours not conceding and then scoring rather than attacking from the get-go has worked for them and is what sees them ranked as the second best African nation behind Algeria.
VERDICT: Tunisia 1/1
Tunisia’s pragmatic, defensive-minded football that favours results over style could give them the edge against Zambia. They only conceded two goals in the qualifying round from six matches and Zambia don’t look likely to create many clear-cut scoring opportunities. The Eagles of Carthage are tipped to nip the win.