TUNISIA VS LIBERIA:MATCH ANALYSIS
By Boy Dolo
Group A of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers will be decided by a showdown between co-leaders Tunisia and Liberia in Monastir this evening.
The two teams are both locked at the top of the standings on 10 points apiece. Should one of the sides win the match, they will take first place and claim a guaranteed spot at Gabon 2017.
However, a draw complicates things as it would in all likelihood bring about a three-way tie at the top of the group between Tunisia, Liberia and Togo (who have eight points and are heavily favoured to beat minnows Djibouti in Lome in a concurrent match) on 11 points.
Deciding who finishes top would then ultimately be decided by how many goals are scored in Monastir (since Tunisia, Liberia and Togo would all finish level on five points in terms of number of points gained in matches between the teams, as well as goal difference in games between them) – it really is as close as that!
Both the Carthage Eagles and the Lone Stars would rather take out the matter of complicated mathematics by simply winning the game outright – something Liberia managed against the North Africans with a 1-0 triumph in Monrovia a year ago.
Francis Doe scored the goal on that occasion, giving the Lone Stars hope of qualifying for their first Nations Cup since 2002 and just a third overall. Tunisia, meanwhile, need a win to ensure a 13th successive appearance at the Nations Cup – could that be an unlucky number for the North Africans?
South African referee Daniel Bennett will take charge of what will surely be a tense game at the Stade Mustapha Ben Jannet in Monastir on Sunday.
At the same time, Togo will look to defeat Djibouti in their final Group A match and hope that it is enough to earn a spot in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
The Sparrow Hawks have an outside chance of finishing top of the pool – though they will need Tunisia and Liberia, who will meet in Monastir at the same time, to play to a draw which would result in a three-way tie for first position – and they also have an outside chance of finishing second and qualifying as one of the two best runners-up.
However, their fate is out of their own hands. Togo can beat Djibouti by a rugby score, but if one of Tunisia or Liberia wins, then the West Africans can’t finish top.
Equally, even if they win and the other group match doesn’t end all-square, then they would still need results elsewhere to go their way, as their final points total of 11 (assuming they beat Djibouti) is unlikely to be enough to secure one of the two berths for runners-up.
Togo defeated Djibouti 2-0 away from home when the teams met for their first group clash a year ago, with Serge Akakpo and Floyd Ayite scoring the goals.
The match in Lome will be referee by Nigerien referee Gomno Daouda.