Madagascar take on Tunisia at the Al Salam Stadium on Thursday night with both sides hoping to progress into the semi finals of this year’s AFCON. Madagascar arrive that this stage of the tournament having topped Group B ahead of Nigeria by a single point, leading to their elimination of DR Congo via penalties last time out. Tunisia have drawn each of their games in ninety minutes and extra time, overcoming the challenge of Ghana by winning the penalty shootout. The pair are solid teams, but only one can be victorious.
Madagascar started their AFCON campaign with a stalemate versus Guinea, ending 2-2 as they fought back from 1-0 down to take the lead, until Francois Kamano netted from twelve yards in the second half. A 1-0 victory over Burundi brought them to four points two games in, with Marco Ilaimaharitra getting the only goal of the day on that occasion. Then came the crucial matchup with Nigeria that decided which of the two would earn the number one position on the standings, and Madagascar didn’t shy away from this magnificent opportunity. Lalaina Nomenjanahary put his nation in the lead after thirteen minutes, while Carolus Andriamahitsinoro doubled their advantage following the interval. That result meant Madagascar earned top spot in a shock outcome from Group B, and a meeting with DR Congo was up next. Ibrahim Amada, with just nine minutes on the clock, scored to give Madagascar a surprise early lead. However, Cedric Bakambu hit back less than fifteen minutes afterwards, assisted by Glody Ngonda. Faneva Andriatsima must have thought he’d struck the winner when he netted late in the game, but Chancel Mbemba saw to it that the match was headed for extra time and eventually, penalties. Each of Madagascar’s four penalty takers scored, and just two hit the net for DR Congo so in the end, Madagascar were 4-2 victors.
Tunisia may have drawn all of their four outings so far but the formula has worked well for them, and will undoubtedly give them confidence should this fixture be tight. First time around they faced Angola and went in front during the first half, but their opponents got the equaliser towards the end of the second half thanks to Djalma. Succeeding that stalemate was a fixture versus formidable opposition – Mali – and Mohamed Magassouba’s men struck past Mouez Hassan with an hour played. Wahbi Khazri ensured that defeat wasn’t on the menu for Tunisia yet, and a goalless draw against Mauritania on the final day of the group stage was all they needed to advance to the Last 16. Ghana are always difficult opponents to come up against, and that proved to be the case here as, after Taha Yassine Khenissi bagged in the seventy-third minute, Ramu Bedoui put the ball in his own net with three minutes of additional time remaining. Extra time passed, and penalties were on the horizon. Tunisia didn’t miss any one of their five spot kicks whereas Caleb Ekuban missed for Ghana. 4-5 was the eventual result in favour of Alain Giresse’s side.
Madagascar don’t have any injury concerns as they prepare for this important game, which will be a huge boost for the camp. Although they switched to a 4-1-3-2 against DR Congo, we believe they’ll opt for the 4-3-3 that saw them beat Nigeria, here. In defense, we expect Romain Metanire, Pascal Razakananten, Thomas Fontaine and Jerome Mombris to start behind a three man midfield of Anicet Abel, Ibrahim Amada and Marco Ilaimaharitra. At the front of attack, it would come as a real surprise if anyone other than Nomenjanahary, Andriamahitsinoro or Andriatsima got the nod.
Tunisia will also have everyone fit and ready to go barring any injury doubts from training in the days preceding this game, and we expect a similar formation to the one used versus Ghana in this one. Tunisia have a well drilled back line and midfield, with the 4-2-1-3 working to excellent effect versus the Ghanains. Goalkeeper Mouez Hassen should return to his post after sustaining an “injury” against Ghana in the 120th minute of extra time, leading to his substitution. The defense should consist of Yassine Meriah, Dylan Bronn, Oussama Haddadi and Wajdi Kechrida, supported by a midfield duo of Ellyes Skhiri and Ghilane Chaalali. Ferjani Sassi will sit behind a front three of Anice Badri, Youssef Msakni and Taha Yassine.
With Tunisia seemingly becoming the masters of drawing, and Madagascar being held to stalemates twice already, we can see this going the entire way to penalties. From there it’s almost impossible to call with the two having come through penalty shootouts last time, but we have an inkling that due to Tunisia taking and scoring once more than their upcoming opponents, they’ll have a slight edge over Madagascar. Skybet have Tunisia to win on penalties at 10/1. Madagascar are also yet to be prevented from scoring during the AFCON this summer, and Tunisia have only been able to keep Mauritania from getting on the scoresheet thus far. Due to this, our second tip is BTTS at 5/4 with Skybet. However, a 1-1 result is our predicted outcome when taking everything into consideration, such as Tunisia’s unwillingness to budge from a 1-1 scoreline having drawn 1-1 three times already and the fact that Madagascar played out draws in two of their four games. Skybet have 1-1 at 11/2.