In apparent exercise in cold pragmatism and negativity Gabon and Tunisia played out often boring 0-0 draw today on a rain soaked Lubango pitch. The point gained assures Gabon of top spot in Group D and puts them in pole position for the quarter finals however a win would have guarenteed Gabons progression to the next round for only the second time.
Tunisia now must beat a resurgent Cameroon to ensure African Cup of Nations activity. No easy task.
Goal scoring chances were at a premium and both teams flooded the midfield stifling any creativity. High balls over the defence was the tactic of the day or shots from outside the box from the main strikers.
Surprisingly Alan Giresse opted to omit Roguy Meye and put him on the bench, (maybe mindfull of his first game yellow card). Instead AC Milan starlet Pierre Aubameyang was drafted into the starting line up to assist Daniel Cousin up-front.
Tunisia also started without their best player Oussama Darragi who had been injured against Zambia instead being left on the bench for the entire game.
Both teams enjoyed early half chances from distance but it was Tunisia who had the best of these in the 27th minute. Gabon defender Bruno Mango made a hash of a back pass which Amine Chermiti quickly pounced upon. After rounding keeper, Didier Ovono, the striker shot goal ward but it lacked pace and Manga did well to correct his mistake and block Chermiti’s effort.
The slippery surface was condusive to mis-placed passes and late sliding tackles in midfield and the game became scrappy and sometimes ill-tempered. Ben Radhia was lucky to escape with a yellow when he scythed down the sprightly Stephane Nguema in 34 minutes and the referee was quick to penalise others despite the conditions.
Both teams missed good chances towards the break but poor finishing and steady if not impressive goalkeeping, especially from Tunisia’s number one resulted in no goals at the half time whistle.
The second half was played out in the same manner with both sets of players choosing to shoot from distance and test the goalkeepers with the slippery ball. Cousin was on hand to clear a Ovono fumble on 60 minutes and at the other end the undecisive Aymen Mathlouthi spilled a Abameyang shot.
Both teams must of realised the opportunity for a 1-0 win yet invention and guile was lacking on the pitch and both teams seemed strangley lethargic. In the last 10 minutes both teams had opportunities to seal an ill-deserved 3 points but the referee was quick to wave away half hearted penalty claims. Aubameyang and Cousin both wasted last gasp goal winning chances near the end but again the chances were ruefully wasted.
In the end the points were shared in maybe the poorest game of the African Nations Cup so far. While Gabon are still in an excellent position Tunisia must now create a display similar to Gabons against Cameroon.
If Gabon beat Zambia on Thursday they will progress as group winners, a draw and they claim second spot. A loss to Zambia and it may come down to the lottery of goals scored depending on Tunisias result.
Gabon team line up : Ovomo, Ambourouet, Manga, Moundounga, Apanga, Mbanaangoye, Kessany, N,Guema(65), Cousin, Mouloungai(78), Auabameyang.
subs : Djissikadie (65), Meye (78)
Tunisia team line up : Mathlouthi, Haggui, Mikari, Jemal, Radhia, Raqued, Dahouadi(86), Korbi, Jemaa, Chermiti (69), Mskani(62).
subs : Saada (62), Akaichi (69), Nafkha (86)