Tunisia’s terrific mix of teamwork and talent can reap rewards
Tunisia, joint third-favourites at 9/1 with Coral to win the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, are regularly mentioned within the same breath as the continent’s big-guns.
However, the impressively named Eagles of Carthage must channel some of that historic bravery in battle on their travels for this upcoming contest, as the North African outfit have done little since their early 00s success.
Tenacious Tunisia triumphed in the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations on home turf, bookended by qualification for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.
It was a golden era for the Eagles of Carthage, but they have seldom lived up to their fearsome nickname, having not made it past the AFCON quarter-finals in their last five attempts after that memorable victory.
Former Belgium coach Georges Leekens has not long been tasked with leading the Mahgreb-based men, only taking up his post in March 2014.
The ex-Algeria and Club Brugges boss has overseen considerable success, however, steering his side, who have not lost since June, to important scalps against Egypt and Senegal in qualification for this upcoming tournament.
Tunisia will have to navigate a supposedly ‘easier’ Group B, containing Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, but still cannot afford to be complacent.
Leekens has bravely introduced fresh faces into his Eagles of Carthage squad, where there was no room in the final cut for record scorer and reliable warrior Issam Jemaa.
Instead, the North African nation have chosen France-born Lens forward Yoann Touzghar, who is as of yet uncapped after only becoming eligible for Tunisia in December, but has been impressing at club level.
Rangers defender Bilel Mohsni, 27, is a fellow new recruit, having only made his debut for Leekens’ side in June, but should help shore up Tunisia’s backline.
Hertha Berlin midfielder, and former Germany youth international, Anis Ben Hatira has also only enjoyed four caps for his adopted country, but will not be able to represent the nation of his heritage in Equatorial Guinea after withdrawing from the squad through injury.
Leekens will still have plenty of potential match-winners to call upon, however, with Zurich pair Yassine Chikhaoui and Amine Chermiti on hand to help out.
The dangerous duo have been in fine form for the Swiss Super League side this season, with tricky Tunisia captain Chikhaoui contributing seven league goals and five assists.
Still only 28, Chikhaoui has the technique and skill to help the Eagles of Carthage breach even the most resilient rearguard, and is also used to playing provider for striker Chermiti, so their club partnership could prove key.
Tunisia have also called upon several other Europe-based top tier stars including Monaco man Aymen Abdennour, Bordeaux attacking midfield whiz Wahbi Khazri and recent Metz acquisition Fakhreddine Ben Youssef.
With these talents in their ranks, and a kind Group B, the Eagles of Carthage stand a fantastic chance of conquering the African Cup of Nations once again in 2015.