Giant-killers Gabon target Tunisia scalp

2010-01-16 10:22

Gabon, drawn in a tough first-round group alongside Cameroon and

Zambia, can enhance their chances of reaching the Africa Cup of Nations last

eight by beating Tunisia in Lubango, Angola, on Sunday.

The Azingo debuted at the Nations Cup in 1994 and two years later

they got as far as the quarter-finals. This will be their fourth Nations Cup

finals.

On Wednesday, they upset the record books in their opening Group D

match by beating four-time champions Cameroon 1-0.

This was only their second ever victory in the tournament and

another win at the Chela Stadium against the Carthage Eagles could well propel

them to the quarter-finals once more.

Gabon, who have a population of just two million people and who are

scheduled to co-host the 2012 Nations Cup, were not intimidated by their nemesis

in the World Cup qualifiers, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, who defeated

them home and away to book their flight to South Africa 2010.

They held out in Lubango for a famous win to partially avenge the

loss they suffered at the hands of the Lions last year. Coach Alain Giresse has

said he would be satisfied with a place in the knockout stage.

“Even if we finish second in this group, we will be happy. What we

want is to qualify for the next round,” said the former France World Cup

star.

Probably the biggest shortcoming of this team is that several of

their key players have been without clubs for some time and so may struggle with

match fitness, especially as they continue to progress in the competition.

However, the entire team will have been encouraged by the sight of

Le Mans’ giant goalkeeper Didier Ovono keeping a clean sheet against the likes

of Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto’o and his high-profile team-mates on

Wednesday.

The pitch at the Chela Stadium is the best of the four stadiums for

this championship and will suit the attractive passing game of the Azingo.

Tunisia, on the other hand, are undergoing a rebuilding process

after they were pipped at the post by Nigeria for a ticket to the World Cup in

June.

Faouzi Benzarti, back at his former post, has re-organised the side

assembled by sacked Portuguese coach Humberto Coelho, meaning this is a team in

transition.

“Over half the team is taking part in their first Nations Cup. This

is a young team that I believe will get better as the competition progresses,”

assured skipper Karim Haggui.

Sochaux defender Yassine Mikari should be fit for Sunday’s tie

after he had to pass a late fitness test to star against Zambia, while more is

expected from Esperance midfielder Oussama Darragi as the 2004 champions attempt

to prove they can also hold their own many thousands of miles away from

home.

However, the appointment of Benin referee Coffi Codjia for the game

has been greeted by uproar in Tunisia.

Last year, Etoile du Sahel protested against his appointment for

their CAF Champions League clash against Al Ahly of Tripoli in April, listing

several instances where they claimed he had been unfair to Tunisian teams and

prompting his replacement.


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