The Lions of Senegal looks good to take the Cartage Eagles to the cleaners in the first semifinal of the African Cup of Nations tournament coming up on Sunday in Egypt at 5pm. The Senegalese are in their 6th Semifinals ever and Tunisia in their 7th semis.
Currently, the Senegalese have played 5 matches winning 4 and losing only to another North African team, Algeria by a lone goal. The team had finished Tanzania 2-0; beaten Kenya 3-0; piped the Uganda Cranes 1-0 and sent out the Squirrels of Benin by a lone goal. It has therefore come from being second in group C with impressive 6 points scoring 7 goals so far and conceding the lone goal scored by Algeria.
Also on current performance, the low scoring Tunisia played 1-1 with Angola; 1-1 with Mali and a disappointing goalless draw with debutante Mauritania. They made only 3points to be second in group E. Then, the extremely lucky outing of defeating Black Stars of Ghana 5-4 on penalties after playing 1-1 at Extra time. Tunisia got a convincing 3-0 win over Madagascar in the quarterfinals.
Statistically, Senegal outshines Tunisia having scored 279 to 269 on ball possession meaning Senegal controls the game better. Shots on target were 28 to 19 and corners were 24 to 19 meaning Senegal knows how to create chances and test the goalkeeper. Senegal got 7 goals and conceded only 1 while Tunisia had 6 goals and conceded 3. That means the Senegalese are better marksmen and the Tunisian defense is not strong. I have a feeling this will lead to their 3rd appearance in the grand finale.
Tunisia is slightly a rougher team for they fouled 94 to 92 times and bagged yellow cards 9 to 7. Senegal should expect a very rough match more violent than when they met the Algerians and the Squirrels of Benin Republic. Hope the VAR will work well and be impartial. Their goal poaching may give them the match. They should expect the typical styles of the North Africans which are time wasting when leading, frustrating and provoking opponents through kicks and unusual acts.
If we are to score them on current performances, Senegal would have earned 12 points from all matches played in Egypt and Tunisia 9 points. Do not forget that for each win, it is 3points, a draw attracts a point.
The Terenga Lions are coming to the party for the 15th time with their best achievement as runner-up in 2002 and 2012. They were semifinalists thrice in 1965, 1990 and 2006; quarterfinalists four times in 1992, 1994, 2004 and the last championship in 2017.
Tunisia who withdrew in 1980 and didn’t get to be in Nigeria for political reasons is coming for the 19th time. Tunisia was champion in 2004; runners-up twice in 1965 and 1996; Bronze medalists in 1962; Semifinalists twice in 1978 and 2000 and Quarterfinalists for good six times in 1998, 2006, 2008, 2012, 2015 and 2017.
Tunisia had won two of their six previous meetings, Senegal won once and there were three draws. Their first meeting at the Cup of Nations played at Stade Abdoulayi Nakoro Cissoko on 31st January, 2002 was goalless. At the Nations Cup in Tunisia on 7th February 2004 Tunisia ran away with a lone goal victory; it was 2-2 on 23rd January 2008. In 2014 they met twice. On 10th October it was goalless in Senegal and on 15th October Tunisia won 1-0 at home. Their last meeting was on the 15th January 2017 where Senegal won 2-0 all goals scored in the first half.
Who appear in the finals on Friday or come to play the loser’s match on Wednesday depends on discipline and good shots on target.
- ENIOLA OLATUNJI.