Tunisia Battles E’ Guinea In First Quarterfinal
• Nigerian Referee Gets Chance
NIGERIAN Referee, Peter Edibi, has been handed a difficult Nations Cup match today in Bata, as CAF experiments with five referees instead of the traditional four.
Starting from the quarterfinals, three assistant referees will be used. Considered the most difficult of the quarter final encounters given the involvement of the hosts, referee of the encounter will be Rajindrapasard Seechurn of Mauritius, Edibi as first Assistant, Jerson Dos Santos of Angola is second assistant, Marwar Range of Kenya is third assistant, while the fourth Official is Koman Koulibaly of Mali.
It will be recalled that due to security concerns and other logistics, CAF had to move this match from the 5,000 seater Ebebinyin stadium to the 40, 000 capacity Bata Stadium where the final will be played.
So far, matches involving the hosts have been a sell out and today will be no exception.
Tunisia coach George Leekens says his side will not feel the pressure of playing the home nation in the game, which kicks off by 7.30 p.m.
The stadium is expected to be overflowing for the encounter, which has generated massive interest in one of Africa’s smallest countries and the atmosphere is likely to be a tense one for the Tunisians. But Leekens says his side are well used to the hazards of playing away in front of massive crowds and will not be intimidated from the stands.
He goes as far as to say it will be a motivating factor for his side and could also work in their favour if they get an early goal and the focus is turned onto the performance of the home team.
“Playing in the presence of 30,000 spectators? This is a good point for us since the public encourages players to excel and in addition it can put pressure on the home team,” Leekens told reporters.
“Equatorial Guinea is a good team, but our players are accustomed to tense atmospheres. Nothing frightens us.”
The Belgian coach does admit it will be a tough challenge though and says Tunisia must find a way to counter the pace of the likes of Emilio Nsue and Javier Balboa.
“We know that Equatorial Guinea are a well balanced team with some pace upfront. It will not be easy,” he said.
Having described his side’s run to the quarterfinals as a ‘Cinderella Story’, Equatorial Guinea coach Esteban Becker says the key to their success has been to play positive football and not allow their opponents to put them under pressure.
“This squad only came together 20 days ago in Madrid, then we went to Lisbon and put in place a style of play with optimism,” he said.
“We were convinced in every training session that we could go far. To be in the top eight in Africa is an honour for such a small nation.”
Tunisia have not passed the last eight since winning the Nations Cup on home soil in 2004, losing at this stage of the competition in 2006, 2008 and 2012.
Equatorial Guinea made the quarterfinals on home soil three years ago, but lost 3-0 against Ivory Coast in Malabo.