Group D: Tunisia vs Zambia

14 Jan

Source: resources.sportingo.com

With the whammies rampant, I feel I’ve earned the right to re-air my earlier sentiments:

“The final group. What shocks could they possibly have in store for us today? Surely, we’ve seen all the comeback action and surprise packages that one tournament can offer? Someone please tell me the postal strike ended in time for Group D to behave as it should! Only time could tell.”

With the latest bombshell out of the way, the final teams to kick off hoped to capitalise on Cameroon’s capitulation minutes earlier. The Africa Cup 2010 is truly shaping up to be something of a special one. Roll on Tunisia and Zambia.

The ref had barely lowered the whistle from his lips, when the quick-fire Tunisians had a penalty shout. Nothing doing for the ref, I thought otherwise. The Chipolopolo Boys would have to shape up it they wanted to stand a chance. Cameroon’s failure had obviously fired up the Carthage Eagles. They looked to pin the Zambians back as much as possible, making attacks down the flanks and not allowing the Zambians to play their game. The Chipolopolo Boys however, found a way back into the game, controlling the pace and bossing possession.

After 18 minutes, the Zambians drew first blood. In a move that probably should have been easily cleared, the Zambian attack prevailed. Mulenga and Chamanga played a brilliant 1-2-1-2 (or is that 1-2-3-4?), displaying outstanding understanding. The final pass was perfectly measured to allow Mulenga to compose himself and slot the ball between the keeper’s legs. It seemed not only the Tunisians had heard about Cameroon’s loss. 0 – 1

The Carthage Eagles once again took flight, trying to find a way past the Zambian defence, but were fighting a losing battle. Chance after chance was thwarted, leaving the Eagles dishevelled and again giving up possession to Zambia. On 39 minutes, they found a way through. A delicate touch saw teenage sensation, Msakni beat the Zambian defence, outstrip them for pace all the way to the by-line, then pull an inch perfect ball back to Dhaouadi who plastered it into the top of the net. 1 – 1

From then on it was anyone’s game. Tunisian attacks somewhat resembled Egypt’s last night, breaking down the wings with venomous speed. The Zambians resembled Nigeria playing a more measured game, stringing passes together then injecting speed or starting the move all over again. You were sure of a similar outcome.

Early on in the second half, the difference almost told. The Tunisians hit the post and and then forced a brilliant reflex save from Zambia’s number 1, Mweene. Only for an inactive player to be called offside. Mweene wasn’t to know and showed great ability getting back to his feet to dive right. The Carthage Eagles did a good job of holding possession and treating the crowd, who were in great voice, to some tantalising passing that always looked like unlocking the Chipolopolo back 4.

Zambia suddenly woke up and took another choke-hold of the game. Firing balls over the top, playing down the wings and shooting from distance. The Zambians suddenly looked like coming up with the goods. Initially they seemed to have afforded the Tunisians too much respect and now took the game to the Carthage Eagles. They should have scored from a well-crafted corner that left Kalaba unmarked at the backpost, but he fluffed his header. Mulenga stung the keeper’s gloves and had him scrambling when a shot found the side netting.

Then a moment of jubilation. Some patient build-up followed by a fantastic cross found Chamanga, who headed confidently into the Tunisian net. He was ruled offside and the celebrations were cut short.

The game could have swung either way but the Zambians lacked a cutting edge in and around the box and managed to nullify the Tunisians at the other end. A result that has blown the group wide open and left Gabon sitting pretty at the helm.

Man of the Match: goes to the youngster Msakni for his constant running, never afraid to take a player on… not to mention that pass for the equaliser.

Goal  of the Match: I think Mulenga deserves it 1) for the succession of passes made for the goal, 2) after his second pass he was stretched out on the floor but got up and carried on, and 3) his finish was very cute, showing Africa’s top strikers how its done.

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