Tunisia 1-1 DR Congo
By Maher Mezahi
Georges Leekens finally employed the use of a five-man defence as Tunisia needed but a single point to advance to the quarter-finals. His conservative tactics worked especially well in the first half, when Tunisia kept their lines close, kept the ball well in attack, and defended resolutely. Leekens will have been chuffed with the execution of his team, but for the equalizing goal where a lapse in concentration saw Jeremy Bokila score from close range.
Though DR Congo advance with the Carthage Eagles, Florent Ibenge will do well to reconfigure his attack. DR Congo qualified with three points, but the Leopards seem to rely on individual brilliance rather than coordinated team effort to construct attacks. When Yannick Bolasie and/or Dieumerci Mbokani misfire in the knockout stages, Ibenge’s men will be in real trouble.
Tunisia have attacking problems of their own as they continue a spell of profligacy in front of goal. The injuries of Fakhreddine Ben Youssef and Amine Chermiti have left the Carthage Eagles a little light in attack. Ahmed Akaichi has scored two goals in three matches, but has been frustratingly wasteful. Hamza Younes is a neater option, but neither of the two are a direct enough threat for a deep run in these Cup of Nations finals.
Cape Verde 0-0 Zambia
Tunisia and DR Congo through but both unconvincing
All in all, Group B has perhaps encapsulated just how little separates the teams. Had Tunisia not scored their late winner against Zambia, all the teams would have finished on three points a piece.
Unlike Group D, where Guinea and Mali have sought to stifle both Cameroon and Ivory Coast and hit them on the counter, Group B has, for the most part, involved open games where both teams have gone in with a positive mentality but not produced in the attacking third for one reason or another.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that DR Congo have made it through the group through a sheer rub of lack rather than any real quality. There have been no particularly impressive performances and no particularly impressive individuals, bar Yannick Bolasie’s opening day performance perhaps.
When DR Congo finished with three points and exited the group stages in 2013, many bemoaned their one-dimensionality and poor build up play. And, if you gather the evidence from qualifying and their outings at the tournament thus far, those are weaknesses which still persist. Three points this time around has seen them through. Just. But as likeable as they are as a team, it will make a sizeable crowd uneasy that they, or Congo, will make the semi-finals despite the minimal stardust produced so far by both parties.
Cape Verde and Zambia both deserve to go home
Zambia have, unsurprisingly, been the easiest team on the eye from Group B. As forecast pre-tournament, the Chipolopolo, with experienced, reliable figures in their defence, were never going to disgrace themselves at the tournament.
But it has reached a point where the finishing part of their game has become disgraceful. In all their three games, they have had a multitude of chances to change their fortunes for the better. It is no exaggeration to say that one point could have been nine.
As for Cape Verde, it is hard to know exactly what they brought to the table, and it would have been equally bizarre to see them contesting a quarter final against Congo. They were a generally solid team, who attacked well and defended well, and should count themselves unlucky to bow out early despite having the same points tally as DR Congo, but they brought little memorability this time around.