Tunisia vs Equatorial Guinea | Saturday 31 January | Ebebiyin | 21:30
Host nation Equatorial Guinea face Tunisia in the second quarter-final clash in Ebebiyin on Saturday. These sides have met on just two occasions which came in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, with the Eagles of Carthage claiming a 3-1 victory in Monastir followed by a 1-1 draw in Malabo.
To Win (90mins)
Equatorial Guinea 27/10
Equatorial Guinea 14/10
Tunisia finished top of Group B with five points from three games which included two 1-1 draws with both Cape Verde and DR Congo and a 2-1 victory over Zambia. The Eagles of Carthage haven’t looked convincing, scoring just four goals and conceding three times. However, George Leekens has got the Eagles playing an exciting, flexible style of football, adept at pressing high up on the pitch while also able to sit deep if need be and catch teams on the counter with ruthless efficiency. They work extremely hard and have a boundless energy which is capable of overwhelming opponents. Leekens is blessed with a talent-littered assortment of options who boast pace and power in abundance, with these attributes allowing the Eagles of Carthage to break with devastating efficiency. Tunisian captain Yassine Chikhaoui’s experience will be key to their efforts in controlling the midfield and pushing the team forward. Ferjani Sassi is capable of providing that moment of magic as he possesses excellent vision, sure passing ability and a fine first touch, and is the kind of polished, deep-lying operator that is regrettably rare in African football.
After agreeing to host the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations following Morocco's withdrawal, Equatorial Guinea went through to the knockout stages with a terrific second-half display which saw them claim a 2-0 victory over a good Gabon side. It is a remarkable story given that Esteban Becker was only appointed as coach at the beginning of this month. The odds still appear stacked against the National Thunder and in certain aspects the pressure is off Becker’s side. Without question all the pressure resides on the shoulders of Tunisia, and with that in mind the outcome of the contest might just hinge on how the Eagles of Carthage handle such potential anxieties. The hosts have undeniably rode their luck in acquiring draws from fixtures with both Congo and Burkina Faso, even so the manner in which Becker has, in just a matter of weeks, moulded a cohesive collective out of a side ranked 118th in the world. It represents a staggering achievement. National Thunder should stick with their 4-2-3-1 formation with skipper Emilio Nsue playing off of the main striker, the deadly Ivan Salvador who already has two goals in the competition. The midfield will be the most important part of the team. With pacey and tricky wingers, they will be a threat going forward.
VERDICT: Draw 2/1
Equatorial Guinea have conceded just one goal while Tunisia have lacked bite in attack. With the backing of the crowd, Equatorial Guinea should keep them out and with the way things have gone in the competition with so many draws, I’m expecting the pattern to continue. Their last meeting in Tunisia ended in a stalemate and the draw looks very likely again. After ninety minutes, it could go either way.