From finishing best losers in their group to defeating a team with three wins from three games in the group stage, Tunisia advanced to the quarter-finals stages of the Africa Cup of Nations Cameroon 2021 at the expense of the Super Eagles of Nigeria thanks to a 1-0 victory.
Midfielder Youssef Msakni delivered a strike more than 30 yards out to beat goalkeeper Maduka Okoye to gift his side the all-needed victory.
Both sides began with caution in the first 45 minutes but the second half produced the moment of the game.
But how did Tunisia unlock the Eagles who were the best team of the group stage? who had uptill then enjoyed a winning streak through the group stage
Perfect tactics by Mondher Kebaier
Though the 51-year old Mondher Kebaier was absent from the game due to testing positive of the COVID-19, his ideas cannot be ruled out of the game.
Tunisia had studied Super Eagles’ sufficiently to know that their strength came from the wings, hence, the North Africans deployed a 3-5-3 formation to disarm threats from the flanks. .
Nigeria’s Moses Simon and Samuel Chukwueze were always tracked by three or more men which did not allow them opportunities into the box as usual.
The wide men of the Tunisian side ensured Simon played back passes or lost possession, a tactic that worked perfectly for them.
Hard work, Consistency, and Discipline
Tunisia managed to envelop three rare qualities in one bag and took it all to the Super Eagles of Nigeria on Sunday.
They stayed glued to their tactics, maintaining their shape and moving together as a team.
There was a different Tunisian football team against Nigeria from the team that played in the group stage.
They performed magnificently, closing gaps and giving the West African side space in their own half.
The three-man center-back were always at the right place at the right time.
The wingbacks made sure Nigeria’s talisman Moses Simon was kept far from the box.
More so, they dealt efficiently with the few crosses that came in, making sure the front line was silent as both Awoniyi and Iheanacho were substituted.
They produced more team play against Nigeria than they have managed in all their three group games.
The adaptation of the team into the new system is the age over everything.
Tunisia dropped their captain Khazri who started all their group games but was only a substitute against Nigeria.
This action paid off as it allowed only the players that jelled into the system to start in order to cripple the Super Eagles which they did perfectly.
On the flip side, Nigeria started their best XI but was by far not their best performance.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria must have left their head somewhere and played against Tunisia like a group game they have already qualified.
Game of No Intent And Ambition
They started the game with very few glimpses of something promising, but as the game progressed, their lackluster attitude increased.
Nigeria after the first few chances played with no intent, passing the ball around with no ambition, only to be comfortable playing in their half, forgetting they are in a knockout stage.
Simon was always trying to drive forward but the front two of Iheanacho and Awoniyi never gave the Nice forward the reason to produce a cross as they were always on a straight line with the forward lost in the shadows of the defenders.
Both Sanusi and Ola Aina loved going forward but their crosses were limited due to a lack of runs in front of the Tunisian goalpost.
Augustine Eguavoen made changes and shattered his team.
Iwobi aside from the red card is a ‘no no’ for the task ahead.
Considering his productivity with his club Everton so far, the Nigerian forward has produced very few assists with just a goal to his name.
Awoniyi was not himself but would not have missed the chances by Umar Sadiq who is not a proven goalscorer by any standards.
The referee Maguette N’Diaye who has had his officiating being questioned on several occasions failed to acknowledge Nigeria’s appeal when a ball heading goalwards was blocked by the hand and diverted to a corner.
It is always advised by the rules of the game that the referee refers to the Video assistant in critical conditions like that, but N’Diaye did not use his machine.
Maguette N’Diaye officiated the controversial FIFA World Cup qualifiers between Ghana and South Africa which they later lodge a complaint claiming the game was manipulated but many of his decisions in the Nigeria Tunisia encounter were even more questionable.
COVID-19 Effect Not A Hindrance
Tunisia lost ten players to COVID-19 including head coach Mondher Kebaier but still managed to progressed thanks to the 1-0 victory against one of the tournament favorites.
They will now face Burkina Faso in the quarter-finals who also progressed earlier today following their victory over Gabon on penalties.
Nigeria left heartbroken but will have to find their way home and plan for the World Cup qualifiers against the Black Stars of Ghana In March.