Africa-Press – Uganda. Just a goal has been the margin of victory across the opening six matches of the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Cameroon.
Certainly teams will open up a little more as the tournament continue
But a cautious approach could still be on cards when Tunisia and Mali clash in the Group F opener at the Omnisport Stadium in Limbe.
This is a contest of the prey birds; the Eagles of Carthage from Tunis and Les Aigles from Bamako. The two teams don’t have much pedigree with only Tunisia’s 2004 title to show and Mali’s 1972 runner-up finish.
But they are serial competitors. Tunisia won five of its six qualifying matches to book a 15 th successive ticket to the Afcon while Mali is at the grand stage for the eighth time in a row.
That makes the two favourites to snatch the top positions in the pool where Mauritania and debutants Gambia face-off in Limbe thereafter.
Tunisia finished fourth at the previous edition in 2019 and last month, they lost 2-0 to Algeria in the Arab Cup final played in Qatar.
However, Zamalek forward Seifeddine Jaziri was the top-scorer with six goals and he is an option in experienced manager Mondher Kebaier’s squad.
Tunisia has won six of the past 11 meetings against their West African opponents and with experienced skipper Wahbi Khazri wading off a Covid-19 scare, they want to extend that streak.
Kebaier has also summoned Manchester United teenager Hannibal Mejbr while Koln defensive midfielder Ellyes Skhiri has shaken off an injury in time for national duty.
The Malians look to be building a youthful side after recent progress at the U17 and U20 Fifa World Cup tournaments. And the midfield unit of Moussa Djenepo, Yves Bissouma and Amadou Haidara can be potent.
Away in Douala, two-time champions Ivory Coast will hope to go top of Group E with a healthy score line when they face Equatorial Guinea.
Having lost one of their last 12 matches, Les Elephants are looking to peak in Cameroon. But Patrice Beaumelle’s team doesn’t have United’s Armand Diallo as he has struggled for playing time. But his teammate Eric Bailly is in the fray together with in-form Ajax striker Sebastian Haller who has struck 22 times in all competitions this season. While Ivory Coast is playing its eight successive tourney, Equatorial Guinea missed the previous two Afcon editions.
Coach Juan Micha doesn’t have Pedro Obiang who has been out due to myocarditis since August but goalkeeper Felipe Ovono could become the country’s most capped player tonight.