Group B: Tunisia Run Riot as They Qualify for Knockout Stage

On what was probably the most exciting day of matches yet in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, Tunisia scored four goals in the first half as they defeated bottom of the table Zimbabwe 4-2.

The victory means they finish second in Group B above Algeria and Zimbabwe, who are both eliminated.

Naim Sliti, Youssef Msakni and Taha Khenissi notched one each for Tunisia within 36 minutes.

Shortly after, Zimbabwe was able to pull one back through Knowledge Musona cutting the Tunisian’s lead to two, but the Tunisians restored their three-goal cushion just before halftime.

A penalty was given to Tunisia in the 44th minute when Khenissi was pushed from behind by Zimbabwe defender Costa Nhamoinesu.  Sunderland midfielder Wahbi Khazri stepped up to the spot and just managed to slot the ball past the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand.

A little after 10 minutes into the first half Zimbabwe were given a lifeline through substitute Tendai Ndoro. Musona, who was Zimbabwe’s brightest star in the competition, was involved again as he provided the through ball that Ndoro was able to latch onto and comfortably finish.

Chances were sparse for Zimbabwe throughout the remainder of the match with Tunisia probably the side who should have scored again.

The other of the two simultaneous matches saw Algeria’s hopes of reaching the knockout stages shatter when they drew Senegal 2-2.

Despite the Senegalese side making 10 changes to the starting lineup, having already secured their place in the next round, the Desert Warriors were unable to get those elusive three points they needed so bad.

Things looked to be off to a good start for Algeria when Leicester City striker Islam Slimani volleyed the ball home from close range in the 10th minute.

Soon after, news began to reach the Algeria side that Tunisia were one up on Zimbabwe… then two up… and eventually three up.

The pressure was clearly getting to the Algerian side.  Facing elimination, they became increasingly scrappy and physical.

It cost them two minutes before the break when a looping, headed clearance from an Algerian defender found Papakouli Diop at the top of the 18-yard box where he slammed the ball out of the air bouncing it into the bottom left corner of the goal.

In the 52nd minute Slimani restored Algeria’s lead after settling a cross from Riyad Mahrez and luckily finding his miscued shot just creeping over the line before a Senegalese defender cleared it.

Just 91 seconds later Senegal were level again.  This time it was Fenerbahce man Moussa Sow who produced a brilliant one-touch strike into the left corner of the goal.

Algeria had their chances to win it in the remainder of the match, but it would have been a meaningless victory with Tunisia safely ahead against Zimbabwe.

In the end, it was Algeria’s loss to Tunisia in their second match of the group stage that truly cost them a place in the quarterfinals.

Tunisia, who won the competition back in 2002, will now look to take their goal-scoring form into the quarterfinals where they will be met by Group A winners Burkina Faso.  Senegal, who’s normal starters will be well rested, face Group A runners-up Cameroon.  Both matches will be played on Saturday.

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Mitchell P. Rozansky

Mitchell P. Rozansky is a promising journalism scholar, member of the St. Bonaventure University Community and Editor-In-Chief of Globe Afrique Media, publisher of globeafrique.com. Prior to serving as editor in chief, he was entertainment editor of the media group, covering news stories and articles on sports, lifestyles, TV/films, music, and fashion.
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