Tunisia, Mali lock horns in Group F opener

Tunisia will be hoping to make a winning start to their quest for a second Africa Cup of Nations title when they take on Mali at the Limbe Stadium today.

Kick-off is at 1.pm.

The Eagles of Carthage conquered Africa on home soil in 2004 when they beat northern rivals Morocco 2-1 in the final, having hosted the biennial tournament for the third time.

Tunisia were first asked to host the Afcon in 1965 when they finished runners-up to Ghana and again in 1994, which saw them exit at the group stages.

The North Africans also reached the final two years later, losing 2-0 to host nation South Africa. They came fourth at the 2019 edition in Egypt.

Mondher Kebaier’s side qualified for the showpiece event in Cameroon as winners of their group, recording five wins and a draw.

The core of the squad play their club football on the continent, with eight of the 11 based in Tunisia. Only seven members ply their trade in Europe’s top-five leagues.

Kebaier has called on his team to show why they are ranked second in Africa as they look to move on from group F, which also contains Mauritania and Gambia.

“There are no more weak teams, and no game is within reach. We need to live up to our reputation,” he was quoted as saying by CAFOnline.

“We were the best team in the playoffs, and we are ranked second in Africa. We will do everything to play the leading role.”

The Eagles have never won Africa’s biggest prize, although they came close in 1972 as losing finalists and finished third in 2012 and 2013.

Mohamed Magassouba’s men topped their group in qualifying with a record of four victories, one draw and one loss.

The majority of his squad operate in Europe, with no less than 10 players featuring for clubs in France.

Magassouba has set an initial target of reaching the knockout stages, but acknowledges they will be tested in group F.

“We will go to Cameroon with ambition, but also with humility. We have to expect some complicated matches. The first objective is to get out of this group,” he was quoted as saying by CAFOnline.

The two nations have met five times before, with two wins each for Tunisia and Mali. Their only previous showdown at the Afcon came in 2019 which ended in a 1-1 draw.

Their most recent encounter saw the Eagles of Carthage run out 1-0 winners in a friendly in June last year. – SuperSport

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