The first of AFCON 2019’s semi final fixtures takes place on Sunday at 5pm BST, held by the 30 June Stadium in Egypt. Competing for a chance at glory are Senegal and Tunisia, two sides who have lit up the tournament at times and there’s no doubting how much the pair deserve to have gotten this far. Senegal have been defeated just the once, against fellow semi finalists Algeria in the group stage, while Tunisia got their first victory during normal time last time out when they saw off Madagascar by three goals to nil.
Aliou Cisse should be extremely proud of his squad having made it to this point of the AFCON, particularly after the major setback of losing to Algeria in June. Maximum points against Tanzania and Kenya were enough to see them through to the Last 16, however the group stage was rather tainted by the fact Senegal couldn’t come away with nine points. Uganda were the first challenge of the knockout rounds and proved to be quite frustrating for Senegal, amassing more shots than the favourites despite having less possession. Liverpool’s star man Sadio Mane notched the crucial goal that separated the sides fifteen minutes into the tie, and that’s exactly how the scoreline read at the full time whistle. A lacklustre performance, but there was still time for improvement. Benin came next, a team which drew all four of their preceding matches, progressing to the quarter finals via penalties. Here, Idrissa Gana Gueye got the all important goal twenty minutes from time to eliminate the ten men of Benin following Olivier Verdon’s red card. The Senegalese haven’t been at the top of their game as of yet, but there’s unquestionable talent amongst the ranks.
Tunisia’s charge towards AFCON silverware has been more of a walk, in truth. Three group phase stalemates versus Angola, Mali and Mauritania were far from impressive and having netted just twice during that time, fans were certainly not expecting to travel this deep in the competition. The reality is that they’re here though, and it seems that the players are willing to rise to the challenge of taking on Africa’s best. Ghana were big favourites in the Last 16, yet Tunisia managed to hold their opposition to another draw, their fourth and Ghana’s third, advancing to the quarter finals thanks to Sassi, Meriah, Bronn, Khazri and Sliti all holding their nerve when taking penalties. 4-5 was the end result, and that led to an unexpected matchup against Madagascar on Thursday night. At half-time neither side could find a breakthrough in what was a tense affair, however Ferjani Sassi grabbed a vital opener with fifty-two minutes on the clock, which allowed Yousssef Msakni to double their lead eight minutes later. The killer blow came in additional time when Naim Sliti made it 0-3, assisted by former Sunderland attacker Khazri, and that display will have provided Tunisia with all the confidence in the world.
Edouard Mendy will be disappointed to miss the remainder of AFCON 2019 after he sustained a broken hand during the tournament, so he’s looking to return to action in the beginning of August. There aren’t any other injury worries for Senegal going into this one so the camp will all be pushing to make a statement and push for a starting spot. Senegal switched from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 against Benin after seeing how poor the performance versus Uganda was, although we expect them to revert back to 4-2-3-1 here. The Benin encounter was not even close to their best thus far, whereas when Senegal utilized 4-2-3-1 against Kenya it worked to great effect. Therefore it’s likely that M’Baye Niang will sit at the front of attack ahead of Mane, Saivet and Sarr.
It seems that Tunisia have finally found the goal-scoring formula by using 4-3-3. Throughout the other games in the tournament they failed to create many opportunities for the attacking threats and struggled to get involved with goals, but when 4-3-3 was used against Madagascar everything appeared to click. In defense we can see Dylan Bronn continuing his partnership beside Yassine Meriah, while Ghilane Chaalali, Ellyes Shkiri and Sassi will hold the centre of the park. A front three of Taha Yassine on the left, Khazri through the middle and Msakni on the right hand side will provide attacking options.
This won’t be a high scoring game, that’s virtually guaranteed. Tunisia scored more than once for the first time against Madagascar whilst Senegal have gone off the boil ever since the group stage finished, so we’re going for Skybet’s offer of 6/4 for under 1.5 goals. Senegal have always found a way to win prior to penalties, and we expect similar during this one. A low-scoring victory in favour of Sadio Mane and co is the predicted outcome from our point of view, so Senegal to win to nil at 9/4 looks a solid bet from Skybet. In each of their knockout fixtures, Cisse’s men have come away with a 1-0 win in normal time. Skybet have a 1-0 result which would see Senegal enter the final at 5/1, and that’s our final tip for this match.