Day 12 - Cameroon came from behind twice to draw Tunisia 2-2 and claim a place in the quarter-finals of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, where they will be joined by surprise packages Zambia, who beat previous group leaders Gabon 2-1.
Cameroon and Zambia finished in a three-way tie atop Group D with Gabon on four points but advance by virtue of the goals scored tiebreaker, while Tunisia end up with three points after drawing all of their matches.
Zambia, who top the group because they scored more against the two other sides with four points, will meet Nigeria in Lubango on 25 January, while Cameroon will face two-time defending champions Egypt in Benguela the same day. Egypt beat the Lions 1-0 in the final of the 2008 CAN in Ghana.
With the group's finish totally in question, all of the sides knew that every goal could jumble up the final order. Gabon coach Alain Giresse must be especially gutted after his team opened the tournament with a famous 1-0 win over four-time champions and FIFA World Cup qualifiers Cameroon.
Gabon 1-2 Zambia (Do Marcolino 83’; Kalaba 28’, Chamanga 62’)
Cameroon 2-2 Tunisia (Eto’o 46’, N'Guemo 64’; Chermiti 1’, Chedjou o.g., 63’)
Goal of the day
Cameroon 0-1 Tunisia, Amine Chermiti (1’)
After two shaky performances, Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen courted controversy by making a host of changes to his side, which included starting against Tunisia with former captain and defensive lynchpin Rigobert Song as well as veteran Geremi on the bench. Imagine the Frenchman’s horror then as the Carthage Eagles drove almost directly from kick-off through the left side of his defence and created the opening goal before many seats had even been taken. Young striker Chermiti made the most of Khaled Souissi’s cross by cutting inside two Cameroonian defenders and beautifully glancing a diving header inside the far corner of the goal from eight yards out.
Le Guen’s substitution pays off
After the early goal, the Indomitable Lions limped into half-time, but a renewed purpose as well as a new player, Pierre Webo on for Jean Makoun, turned things around quickly after the break. Just as quickly as Tunisia had scored in the first half, Cameroon struck in the second as Webo blazed down the right flank and picked out Samuel Eto’o, who squeezed between two defenders to equalise at the near post. The goal marked the Cameroon skipper’s record 18th tally in the African Cup of Nations, and Le Guen’s sub continued to be a thorn in the side of the Tunisian defence.
Zambia show their speed
Using the flanks to good effect proved a huge part of Zambia’s armoury in the match at the Ombaka Stadium, with Rainford Kalaba, Felix Katongo and James Chamanga all repeatedly testing the Gabon fullbacks with their pace. This allowed the Chipolopolo to poke holes in the Gabonese defence, which is what Chintu Kampamba and Katongo did just short of the half-hour mark in combining to free Kalaba, who had no trouble nipping the ball wide of the onrushing goalkeeper, Didier Ovono, to open the scoring.
Quick on the draw
With the score 1-1, Cameroon’s defence continued to look shaky and Aurelien Chedjou paid a painful price in the 63rd minute. With little pressure on the defender, he attempted to head Ben Saada's long ball back to goalkeeper Carlos Kameni from near the edge of the area, but he only managed to perfectly place a looping ball over the hand of the stranded Kameni and into his own net. It was a devastating moment for Chedjou who was brought into the starting line-up to replace Rigobert Song. However, Cameroon’s reaction to going a goal behind was immediate, and substitute Webo was again the creator of the goal after he controlled and laid the ball off to Landry N'Guemo to blast the ball home from the edge of the box at the near post. Song would be brought on to the pitch just six minutes later and help to successfully quiet the nerves of the Cameroonian backline.
Gabon set up late chances
A sudden lapse in concentration by Zambia’s defence set up a nervy finish as Gabon captain Daniel Cousin picked out an unmarked Fabrice do Marcelino in the 83rd minute, and the second-half substitute was able to take advantage of time and space to score. Suddenly Gabon, outplayed the entire match, were within a shout of getting the point that would confirm them at the top of the group. They lifted their tired legs and forced two late free-kicks but both were from distance and did not ultimately test Zambia’s goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene.
6 – The number of Cup of Nations quarter-finalists that also reached the last eight in Ghana two years ago. Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt and Angola also advanced from the group stage in 2008, along with Tunisia and Guinea, who are replaced this time around by Zambia and Algeria.
What they said
"We are grateful we have been able to achieve something. Everyone thought it was impossible but we have now proven it is possible." Zambia captain Chris Katongo.
Angola - Ghana (24 Jan. 16:00 GMT)
Côte d'Ivoire - Algeria (24 Jan. 18:30 GMT)
Have your say
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