Zambia and Tunisia up first in Group B’s second day of play, both teams coming off the back of one-all draws and looking for a win to secure a quarter-final berth. The Nuevo Estadio de Ebebiyin was once again full to capacity, Tunisia as favourites to take the three points in this match.
The crowd were on their feet after only two minutes, along with the Tunisian players calling for a penalty kick after Stoppila Sunzu was seen to handle in the box, luckily for Zambia, referre Aboubacar Bangoura adjudging it to be ball to hand. Replays would suggest a penalty kick given would have been harsh on the Zambians. The game failed to spark though resulting in a half of few chances, Zambia the most adventurous of the sides but limited to long range shots by a resolute Tunisian defence marshalled by Syam Youssef. Shortly before half-time the Zambians came close with a good chance made by Lubambo Musonda, crossing for captain Rainford Kalaba who’s volley was briliiantly saved by Aymen Mathlouthi. That brought about the half-time break, neither side making great strides towards victory but overall the Zambian Chipolopolo in the ascendancy.
The second half brought more pressure from the Zambians, Tunisia not quite performing to the best of their abilities in this competition as yet, many would feel. The Carthage Eagles manager Georges Leekens can be happy with his defence at least, Monaco’s Aymen Abdennour showing steel at the back making important challenges and putting his body on the line several times through the match. But less than fifteen minutes into the second half, the Tunisian defence was breached, Kalaba again in the thick of the action forging a run into the Tunisian box and crossing for Emmanuel Mayuka of Southampton to power the opening goal of the match, his twelfth for his country. The lead was only to last ten minutes though, the Zambian goal sparking Tunisia into some semblance of urgency. A corner was nodded on and Ahmed Akaichi arrived strongly at the back post to prod home, turning the momentum of the game completely, Zambia now also without the injured Mayuka who left the stadium in an ambulance. With only two minutes of normal time remaining Tunisia scored what proved to be the winning goal Yassine Chikhaoui nodding home a Youssef Msakni cross from six yards, breaking the hearts of the Zambians who had battles hard but in the end Tunisian class had shown through. A Quarter-Final berth now likely awaits the Carthage Eagles, whilst Zambia are left with one point from two games, with Cape Verde their next opponents. The knock-out stages are not beyond them, but their fortunes in front of goal will need to change dramatically if they are to get anything from their last group game, coach Honour Janza criticising “selfish egos” within the team and blaming selfish play for their missed chances. The cup winning exploits of 2012 seem a long long time ago right now for the Zambian players and fans.