The Good, The Survivor & the Failures : Episode 2 : The Survivor
Entering the tournament as one of the teams to watch thanks to their impressive AFCON preparations, Tunisia were tipped to qualify easily out of their group made of Mali, Angola & Mauritania. But the contrary happened.
Carthage Eagles’ group campaign started in Suez against Angola. An encounter which on paper looked much in Tunisia’s favour.
Tunisia managed to take the lead from the spot thanks to a Msakni penalty, the only sunshine in a cloudy half of football offered by Alain Giresse’s men & enough to get the North Africans ahead at the break. The second half was underway under Las Palancas Negras pressure who threw their two dangerous assets former Primeiro Agosto stars Geraldo & Gelson into the game to inject zeal. This bet paid as Angola got more dangerous as time was running. Tunisia on its side opted for a defensive approach to defend this thin lead. Tunisia’s refusal to go for the killer coupled with Angola’s pressure resulted onto a deserved equalizer for the Southern Africans. A basic shot, miserably coughed up by Ben Mustafa ended into Djalma’s boots who just tucked it in. Tunisia’s minimalist attitude & tactical mish-mash were punished. The introduction of Sliti seconds after the equalizer changed nothing, Tunisia conceded a miserable draw and already hampered their chances to top the group.
A calamitous draw which raised questions about the chemistry between Alain Giresse & the local members of his staff moreover of some curious tactical choices. This setback could’ve been a wake up call before Mali’s clash but it wasn’t. After a first half relatively alright, Tunisia succumbed again because of its custodian. This time Hassan, who replaced Ben Mustafa who was axed following his clanger, showed that he’s on par with the latter. Poorly failing to deal with a very simple corner, the Nice keeper gifted the opener to the West Africans & put Tunisia in a complicated position. Alain Giresse in his reactive style threw Chaouat & Msakni into the fire to grab the equalizer. Tunisia’s salute finally came from a deflected freekick taken by Wahbi Khazri. Tunisia will survive a late scare as Marega will be denied by Hassan in a one-one situation to bag a point.
Tunisia entered the Mauritania decider in a very tense atmosphere: scission among players, poor relation between staff members, indiscipline rumours appeared in the press. Needing to avoid a loss to qualify, Tunisia will suffer very much during the game, particularly in the first half but will qualify in the most “Tunisian” way possible. With three draws, not a single complete performance & a group close to explosion, the Carthage Eagles took the 2nd qualifying spot to book a meeting against their pet peeve, Ghana. A miserable group campaign which had consequences as Tunisia mental coach,David Marcel was fired after being accused by Tunisia FA of “overriding his functions”.
Having failed to pick up a single win over Ghana in an official game, unable to win a game at AFCON so far & with a group close to explosion, Tunisia was tackling Ghana in the minnows’ boots in a do or explode clash. The first half ended on a barren draw as both countries threatened each other. A much more confident Tunisia entered in the second half. The North Africans finally offered a good image. Sharp, threatening, crisp,
Alain Giresse’s men took the lead thanks to the energetic Khenissi after an intense spell of pressure in which they put their opponent to the sword. Having taken the lead, Tunisia went back to the defensive approach..A “resultadista” approach which was punished by an own goal from the fresh sub Bedoui two minutes into injury time.
Tunisia went to extra time after offering their best half of the tournament.An extra time which saw two major events : a glaring missed opportunity from Jordan Ayew to kill the game and the 120th minute. In a huge bet, Alain Giresse decided to sub Hassan for Ben Mustafa, preparing for the shootout. For long seconds Hassan angrily refused to be subbed but was finally taken out after the intervention of his teammates. A big bet which proved to be successful for the Frenchman as Ben Mustafa will save Ekuban’s penalty. Ferjani Sassi, with the calmness of a Dalai Lama will freeze Richie Ofori and send Tunisia to the quarters. A penalty perfectly taken at the image of all Tunisian kicks this night in Ismailia. Ghana beaten, the explosion of the group was avoided & Alain Giresse fragile authority was reinforced after finally putting together a coherent team & showing authority.
The 2004 champions locked horns with 2019 edition’s surprise package Madagascar’s Bareas in a bid to reach their first AFCON semis since 2004 after numerous failures. Giresse men finally did it in style. Against a Malagasy team running out of gas, Tunisia dominated the game from head to toes but made the difference on the scoreboard in the second half through Sassi, Msakni & Sliti goals.
Out of nowhere & after being on the verge of explosion,Tunisia will now play an AFCON semi for the 6th time. Against Senegal’s armada and after surviving inside & outside the field problems, the young Tunisians will have nothing to lose on Sunday afternoon against one of the tournaments perennial favourites.