Tunisia vs Nigeria
Al Salaam Stadium, Cairo
Wednesday, 17-07-2019 @10pm
Not the match both teams would have wanted to play but one Tunisia and Nigeria have to get out of the way as the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations nears its climax.
Following respective defeats in their semi-finals, the Eagles of Carthage and Super Eagles will be fighting for third on Wednesday night at the Al-Salaam Stadium in Cairo.
Tunisia lost 0-1 to Senegal on Sunday with the goal coming in the cruelest of fashions as Dylan Bronn put through his own net with 10 minutes of extra time to play.
They also missed out on a 113th-minute penalty when an initial refereeing decision was overturned by VAR.
Coach Alain Giresse, had led Tunisia to just one defeat in 10 before their semi-final loss, including a win in Croatia during the build-up to this summer’s tournament.
They are resolutely hard to break down and eventually disposed of Madagascar comfortably in the quarter-finals, seeing off the tournament surprise packages by scoring three goals without reply in the second half.
All of the goals conceded by Tunisia at this year’s tournament have arrived in the final third of matches, with both of the goals scored against them in the knockout stages coming after the 90th minute.
For Nigeria, they were also eliminated in a cruel manner as they conceded with virtually the last kick of the game against Algeria.
Drawing 1-1 and headed for extra-time, Riyad Mahrez thumped a free-kick into the top left-hand corner to break Nigerian hearts.
The Super Eagles will feel they deserved better especially after knocking out both Cameroon and South Africa earlier but the brand of football they exhibited on Sunday, does nothing to justify their cries.
What the coaches are saying ahead of the match
Alain Giresse, Tunisia
“The match will be very difficult, physically and technically but we’ll try everything we can to finish third.
“Of course, we wanted to reach the final, but now we focus on the third-place match.
“I can’t say all my players are perfectly fit, we have a little time to know how ready the players are.”
Gernot Rohr, Nigeria
“After our loss to Algeria, we were a bit disappointed because it’s disappointing when you lose a game in the last seconds.
“We’ve analysed the match, we saw the video with the players yesterday [Monday] and we saw also it was a good match and we gave a good fight.
“The statistics were even better for us, because we had 11 shots on goal, they had only six. We had better possession of the ball against probably the best team so far in the tournament.
“So, losing to them is not a shame and we have to be positive as we want to finish this competition well together.”
Rohr is likely to be tempted to make changes in order to enhance the experience of several of his younger talents, with the likes of Chelsea defender Kenneth Omeruo and Paderborn full-back Jamilu Collins – who was given a torrid time by Mahrez – liable to make way. One name to watch out for could be Henry Onyekuru, the 22-year-old striker who Everton paid Belgian club Eupen £7m for in 2017, so impressed were they at his strike ratio of almost a goal every other game. Ighalo’s position as tournament top scorer looks precarious despite his gutsy penalty against Algeria. The Shanghai Shenhua striker leads the way with four goals so far, but is just one ahead of Mahrez, Algeria teammate Adam Ounas and Senegal’s Mane, all of whom are expected to take part in Friday’s final.
Giresse could freshen up his side following their extra-time endeavours against Senegal. Defensive midfielder Ferjani Sassi is an option should the coach opt for a more guarded approach against opponents capable of potency, while new prospects such as 18-year-old Leverkusen midfielder Marc Lamti could be brought in.
It’s been an even tussle down the years with eight draws coming from 17 competitive meetings between the pair. Tunisia have a tiny historical edge with five wins to Nigeria’s four.