Tunisia yesterday claimed an upset 1-0 win over Nigeria in Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 clash played at the Roumde Adjia Stadium in Garoua.
The Super Eagles who had won all three of their group stage matches, were considered clear favourites against thhe Cartage Eagles side which had lost two of their first round games and only sneaked through to the knockout phase as one of the top-ranked third-place finishers.
Yet the North Africans – also hit by a raft of Covid-19 absences – put up a disciplined and determined showing, claiming the victory on the back of a long-range hit from Youssef Msakni early in the second half.
Nigeria also ended the game with 10 men after Alex Iwobi was red carded midway through the second half.
The first clear chance of the match went the way of Tunisia in the 10th minute, with fine work down the right flank from Hamza Rafia setting up Msakni, but he saw his goal-bound effort blocked by Kenneth Omeruo.
The Cartage Eagles, meanwhile, struggled to bring Msakni and Seifeddine Jaziri into play at the other end, but on the whole they would have been happy with their work in the first half, frustrating Nigeria and ensuring the game was locked at 0-0 at the interval.
And the North Africans struck the first key blow just two minutes after the restart, with Msakni not closed down by the defence and allowed to fire off a swerving shot from long range which skidded off the turf and burst past the left hand of goalkeeper Maduka Okoye for 1-0.
Nigeria responded on the hour mark with a pair of substitutions, sending on Alex Iwobi and Peter Olayinka, but it was starter Wilfred Ndidi who looked to come up with an equaliser soon thereafter, firing a long range shot just over the target.
Ironically, after going down to 10 men, Nigeria’s attack began to look more dangerous, with Simon and Chukwueze both sending shots just off target in the minutes after Iwobi’s dismissal.
Yet the 10-man team inevitably began to be stretched at the back and Okoye was called on to make an excellent save from Tunisian substitute Naim Sliti with 15 minutes of regulation time left to play.
Tunisia were able to see out the remainder of the match in relative comfort, with Nigeria’s only chance a shot from a tight angle by substitute Umar Sadiq which rolled narrowly wide off the mark in the first minute of injury time.
Tunisia will go on to face Burkina Faso in a quarterfinal in Garoua on Saturday 29 January.