x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Ghana star-studded but team comes first for Tunisia coach Sami Trabelsi

Coach believes a team relying on the brilliance of Sulley Muntari and Asamoah Gyan can be beaten in the African Cup of Nations semi-finals.

Tunisia players, seen here at a training session in Bongoville, will wear black armbands following the Egyptian tragedy last week.
Tunisia players, seen here at a training session in Bongoville, will wear black armbands following the Egyptian tragedy last week.

Tunisia are hoping not to be outdone by the individual brilliance of the Black Stars of Ghana in Sunday night's Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final in Franceville.

A scintillating free kick by Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu ensured Ghana drew 1-1 with Guinea on Wednesday to finish top of their group. Sami Trabelsi, the Tunisia coach, watched that game and picked Andre Ayew, Sulley Ali Muntari and Asamoah Gyan, the Al Ain forward, as the major threats to his team.

"We have to be mindful of these players," Trabelsi said during a press briefing at the team's training base in Bongoville, about 40 kilometres from Franceville.

"I know them very well as I know the other players in their squad. But I'm also sure that [Goran] Stevanovic, the coach of Ghana, also knows all my 23 players because today in football nothing is hidden.

"We play as a team, while they often rely on the brilliance of their individual players to make the difference for them."

Trabelsi said wearing black armbands tonight is "the least" his team can do for the more than 70 people killed after a club match in Egypt last week.

He said Tunisia's squad in Gabon was "moved" by what he calls the "sporting tragedy" that took place in Port Said on Wednesday when at least 74 people died in violent clashes.

Tunisia is the only North African team left at the Cup of Nations; Morocco and Libya were eliminated in the group stage. Egypt, the three-time defending champions, failed to qualify for this year's tournament.

"For us, Egypt and Tunisia are two brotherly countries," said Anouar Haddad, the Tunisian Football Federation president.

Despite facing Ghana, one of the title favourites, in the last eight, Haddad said Tunisia's "solid team" was capable of reaching the final. He said: "Why shouldn't we lift the cup?"

Meanwhile, Kwesi Appiah, Ghana's assistant coach, has backed his players to deal with the increased expectations on their shoulders as they continue their bid for a first African Nations championship since 1982.

The Black Stars emerged as one of the continent's major forces with an eye-catching run to the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where they were controversially dumped out by Uruguay on penalties.

Ghana's build-up to today's clash at the Stade de Franceville has been overshadowed by the death of the mother of then midfielder Anthony Annan on Thursday. Annan has opted to play on.

Stevanovic has a full squad at his disposal, and Appiah is convinced his team can cope with the pressure when they face Tunisia, the Group C runners-up.

"After the World Cup, Ghana's name rose high and we are forgetting that any team coming to play Ghana thinks they are coming up against the best team in Africa, and for that matter the preparation and determination is always very high," Appiah said on www.ghanafa.org.

"There is some sort of a little pressure on the players as well. Everyone is expecting so much from them but I believe we can overcome it and put up a very good performance against Tunisia."

Tunisia v Ghana is the last of the quarter-finals.

Earlier on Sunday, it is the co-hosts Gabon against Mali.