Botswana stun Tunisia, Togo draw in Chad
Jerome Ramailhakwane was the hero for the Zebras as he broke the deadlock on 35 minutes at Al-Menzah Stadium, breaking free to give goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi no chance. Playing competitively for first time under French coach Bertrand Marchand, the Carthage Eagles responded with a succession of attacks that failed to deliver an equaliser.
Tunisia have featured at nine consecutive Cup of Nations tournaments since playing hosts in 1994 and lifted the trophy six years ago when they staged it again. They failed to make the quarter-finals this year, drawing with Zambia, Gabon and Cameroon to miss out and coach Fawzi Benzarti opted to concentrate on Tunis club giants Esperance, opening the door for Marchand.
Botswana coach Stanley Tshosane congratulated his team after one of the greatest football triumphs for a country that has never come close to qualifying for the premier African tournament. "This is a historic victory against opponents regarded among the giants on the continent. Tunisia dominated the game but our defence was resolute and calm," he told a news conference.
Togo, playing for the first time since a fatal terror attack on the team before the 2010 tournament in Angola, came from behind twice to force a 2-2 draw against Chad in N'Djamena. A goal flurry midway through the first half saw Leger Djimenim score for a Chadian team ranked 22 places below their rivals, Mani Sapol equalise and Marius Mbaiyam restore the lead for the home team.
Baker Alouenouvo brought the teams level again on 67 minutes, leaving home supporters to regret a missed penalty from Ezekiel Ngar one minute before half-time. Botswana host Chad and Malawi visit Togo next Friday in the second round of Group K fixtures that will end only in October next year with the first and second countries on the final standings qualifying for the 2012 tournament.