With Fakhreddine Ben Youssef and Saber Khalifa forced to pull out through injury, Edam Rjaibi and Ahmed Akaichi have been handed late call-ups
Champions 11 years ago, Tunisia’s Africa Cup of Nations 2015 preparations have been hit by a last-minute striker shortage.
Edam Rjaibi and Ahmed Akaichi have been called up as replacements for the injured Fakhreddine Ben Youssef and Saber Khalifa, who both suffered muscle injuries during their side’s warm-up friendly against Algeria on Sunday.
The loss of both of their favoured strikers is a huge blow to the North Africans who were one of the tournament favourites.
Akaichi has been rebuilding his reputation back home in recent years after a tough spell with German second-tier side Ingolstadt, while Rjaibi’s only previous international experience is as an unused substitute in friendlies last season, meaning national coach Georges Leekens has a tough choice ahead of him.
The favourites – Tunisia and Cape Verde
Despite the loss of the strikers that fired them to a place in Equatorial Guinea, Tunisia should have too much quality in their squad for the rest of Group B.
They came through qualification unbeaten in a group that included fellow finalists Senegal and continental powerhouses Egypt.
Cape Verde were a surprise package of the 2013 Afcon where they made it to the quarter-finals.
But nobody should be surprised if the tiny island nation make it at least that far this time too, with young striker Ryan Mendes, who participated in the Europa League with Lille this season, a major threat.
The outsiders – Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo
Zambia traded blows with Cape Verde in Afcon 2015 qualification, with both winning their home matches, as the island nation pipped the 2012 winners to top spot.
Far from the force they were when they won the 2012 edition of the competition, national coach Honour Janza seems to already have one eye on Chipolopolo’s future with three under-20 rookies in his squad for the tournament.
DR Congo’s passage to this year’s finals was through the back door as the best third-placed finisher in qualification.
A victory over tournament favourites Cote d’Ivoire in qualifying is proof of their ability to stun any team on their day though.
Star Player – Heldon (Cape Verde)
The 26-year-old attacking midfielder probably holds the key to Cape Verde’s progression to the next round.
He was a revelation at the 2013 edition and has the knack of popping up with key goals when needed, crucial strikes coming in qualifiers against Mozambique and Niger to push Cape Verde over the line.
Crunch match – Tunisia v Cape Verde
As this is both sides’ first match of the tournament they will be keen not to slip up and put themselves under pressure to qualify for the quarter-finals.
The historical record suggests Tunisia should walk this game but Cape Verde have a habit of “giant-killing” and have enough fire power to trouble a side who may find it tough up front.
January 18, 2015 – Zambia v DR Congo, Ebebiyin / Tunisia v Cape Verde Islands, Ebebiyin
January 22, 2015 – Zambia v Tunisia, Ebebiyin / Cape Verde Islands v DR Congo, Ebebiyin
January 26, 2015 – Cape Verde Islands v Zambia, Ebebiyin / DR Congo v Tunisia, Bata