BEVERLY HILLS, March 29, (THEWILL) – In the qualifying series for the 2022 TOTAL African Cup of Nations AFCON qualifiers currently ongoing across the continent, Tunisia has emerged as one of the teams to finish their qualification matches with an unbeaten streak.
They sealed this rating in their last match, a 2-1 victory over Equatorial Guinea on Sunday at their Stade Olympique de Rades in Rades, Tunisia.
Of the six group stage fixtures, the Carthage Eagles won five and drew one to win the group, qualify for the continental tournament and maintain a strong run in the qualifying games, while conceding just five goals and scoring 14 for a healthy goal difference of nine.
Their opponents and second-placed team in Group J, Equatorial Guinea, had a balance of match wins, match losses and goal difference to have their scores appear almost entirely scripted. They won three of their six matches and lost three with no draws. But, they conceded seven goals to cancel out the seven they scored and therefore ended with a goal difference of zero.
However, the two countries had already qualified for AFCON before the last Matchday on Sunday and were playing to fulfill the requirements of the group level, without the pressure of consequences but for honour and ranking. It was to the benefit of the Tunisians that it was a home game and involved no travel.
The hosts began the better of the sides with an early lead just after the third minute mark from a Saifeddine Jaziri deadlock-breaking goal and there were no other goals until after the interval when Tunisia doubled their tally through an unfortunate own goal from the visitor’s defender Carlos Akapo.
But, there was to be a consolation goal from the twisted fate of the fixture which balanced scales for the Nzalang Nacional with a Tunisian own-goal. The substitute, Firas Chaouat, was the culprit this time and he fired into his own goal, two minutes from time to help the visitors halve the deficit.
In the other group tie, the two countries who did not make the cut clashed in the bottom-of-the-group fixture for a final time in the qualification series. The Tanzanians had failed to keep their qualification dreams alive when they surrendered the last time to the Equatoguineans finally found the means to keep a clean sheet in their 1-0 victory over the Libyans.
The result meant the Tanzanians finished third in the group while leaving the bottom slot for the Libyans. The goal that won it for the Taifa Stars came at the stroke of the break from the boots of Simon Msuva. And, although the North Africans returned for the second half stronger and had several scoring chances, they were wasteful and could do nothing to affect the scoreline.
Ibrahem Bodabous, Mohamed Soulah, Salah Aldeen and substitute Mouad Eisay had the clearest chances to level the scores but could not find a way to beat Aishi Manula, in the Tanzanian goal. Mbwana Samatta could have also helped Tanzania double their lead but fluffed his opportunity.
For Group A, Sunday matches brought a first defeat for the Guinean national team in the qualification series, when they lost by a 2-1 margin to Namibia, at the San Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek, Namibia.
Although the Syli Nationale had already picked their AFCON ticket to Cameroon beside Mali, the second-placed team of Group A, the Guinean team was seeking to finish top of the group. But, Namibia had plans of their own. For their pride and honour as hosts, they ensured they finished the group round with victory at home coming from behind to firm up their third spot with a brace from in-form Mamelodi Sundowns man Peter Shalulile, who was Man-of-the-match.
Guinea began the stronger of the teams when they broke the deadlock in the 17th minute through Mamadou Kane. Shalulile scored his first at the stroke of halftime to take the level scores into the break and put the Namibians in a stronger position coming into the second period.
Manfred Starke could have given the hosts an instant upper hand at the start of the second half but his bicycle kick was a mishit. When Guinea also let their opportunity to take the lead slip through an over the bar header from Moustapha Kouyate, Namibia took their chance. The 77th-minute winner completed Shalulile’s double, which he nestled into the net from a corner kick.