As the AFCON 2019 comes to its conclusion, there is still one more reward for the pair of losing nations from the semi finals. On Wednesday Tunisia and Nigeria will go head to head for the AFCON Bronze Match to see who will finish the tournament in third spot behind their opponents of last week. While both sides will be desperately disappointed at the fact they won’t be lifting gold on Friday, both should be proud of their achievements and there’s no reason to feel that this was the last chance they’ll ever get in the competition. When the two last met, neither could break the deadlock after Tunisia’s second half equaliser in 2016.
Tunisia appeared to be the draw specialists going in to the quarter finals, playing out stalemates in each of their four games leading up to the fixture. In the beginning, it was successive 1-1’s versus Angola and Mali which provided them with the opportunity to progress to the Last 16 if they took just one more point from an encounter with Mauritania, and they did not fail in that regard, despite not adding more goals to their tally of two. Up next was Ghana at the Ismailia Stadium in a game which went the whole stretch to a penalty shoot-out following a third 1-1 of the tournament for Tunisia. Alain Giresse’s men hit the net with all five of their strikes, whereas Ghana missed on the third attempt, meaning it was Tunisia who advanced to the quarter finals against all odds. The matchup against Madagascar was expected to be far more difficult than it turned out, as Tunisia ran away with it and put three past Melvin Adrien in the Madagascar goal. Unfortunately however, that was the end of an exciting journey in Tunisia’s quest for AFCON success, as Senegal eliminated them at the semi final stage thanks to an extra time goal from Dylan Bronn, placing Tunisia in this third place play-off.
Nigeria’s record in this year’s AFCON looks very different to their opposition as they haven’t drawn any one of their six games played up to now, winning four and suffering defeat once. It all began against Burundi, who they saw off by one goal to nil, folowed by another 1-0 victory, this time versus Guinea. Upon the third game of Group B, Nigeria simply had to take maximum points from ninety minutes against Madagascar to top the group table. It didn’t go to plan whatsoever for the Black Stars though and Madagascar came out victorious by two clear goals in front of a crowd of almost 10,000. A Last 16 clash with Cameroon beckoned, with many predicting a thrilling match. It didn’t let anyone down either, as second half strikes from Odion Ighalo and Alex Iwobi ensured Nigeria’s passage through to the quarter finals by beating Cameroon 3-2 having fought from 1-2 down. South Africa, the giant-killers of this tournament, were waiting in the quarter final and full of confidence after defeating hosts Egypt. Samuel Chukwueze provided Nigeria with an early lead, and in spite of Bongani Zungu’s late leveler, Nigeria bagged a crucial winner just one minute from the end of regulation time. Gernot Rohr’s team were beginning to dream, until Algeria broke their hearts in the very last minute via a Riyad Mahrez free-kick on the edge of the area, winning 2-1 on the day.
Tunisia will have a fully fit squad for this one in what will be an important game for their pride, so everyone is expected to be on their toes as the game approaches. Although the 4-3-3 that worked so well against Madagascar didn’t quite have the same effect in the loss at the hands of Senegal, it’s still likely that they’ll opt for that formation once more. Mouez Hassen should remain as goalkeeper, with Yassine Meriah and Dylan Bronn protecting him in defense. The midfield will be made up of three men, Ayman Ben Mohamed, Ellyes Shkiri and Ferjani Sassi, while Youssed Msakni and Taha Yassine will sit either side of former Sunderland striker Wahbi Khazri.
John Obi Mikel has missed most of the tournament through injury and will sit this one out too, but other than that they will have every member of the camp available for selection. Nigeria lined up in a 4-2-3-1 in each of their previous three outings, and it went well for them on two of those occasions. We still think they’ll utilize this formation on Wednesday, perhaps with a few minor tweaks to the starting eleven, Daniel Akpeyi will stay as number one, behind centre backs Kenneth Omeruo and William Troost-Etong. In midfield we’ll likely see Oghenekaro Etebo partner Leicester City man Wilfred Ndidi, and Alex Iwobi could play as a number ten behind a front three of Ahmed Musa, Ighalo and Chukwueze, although Moses Simon or Henry Onyekuru could start in his place.
Nigeria are the clear favourites going in to this meeting, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone considering the talent within the squad. Despite their undeniable attacking threat, we don’t see this one being a high-scoring, enthralling game but rather a slow, tired, typical end-of-tournament match with neither team particularly bothered. Therefore, we’re looking to Nigeria to win to nil at 11/4 with Skybet as our first tip for this one, and our second recommended bet is under 1.5 goals at 13/8, also with Skybet. Tunisia have put everything they’ve got towards making it this far, but all that energy will have been sapped out of them after taking part in extra time. Nigeria still have goals in them and are going to be more energetic, so a 1-0 result in favour of the side ranked 45th in the FIFA World Rankings at 13/2 is our final tip.