Africa Cup of Nations: Five things we learned on Day 15

·2-min read

Knockout stage football? A funny old game of up to 120 minutes and penalty shoot-outs? No. It's a battlefield and the Tunisians won. And they didn't even need to play their man Hannibal.

Battle of the Bands

There are so many duels. And usually the focus is on the ones on the field. And why not ? This is a football match. But what about the key moments off the field? The Nigeria philharmonic tuned up their big audio dynamite an hour or so before the start of the last-16 tie between Nigeria and Tunisia in Garoua. The Tunisian response? A couple of vuvuzelas and then nothing. Perhaps they saw the arrival of another Nigerian sound system. It was an annihilation. While the brass was cooling down, the percussionists and dancers turned their enclosure into a performance art space. From 7.15 when the players came out for their warm-up. There was no let up. A comprehensive 2-0 victory to the Nigeria. Would it be different on the pitch?

And the band plays on

It certainly was not the same on the pitch. Tunisia led the much-hyped Nigerians a merry tactical dance. All low block and massed ranks. Tunisia won 1-0 with discipline and order.

Band of brothers

Not surprising there was a victory because a lot of martial stuff has been coming out of Camp Tunisia. On Day 14, Aissa Laidouni spoke not of his teammates but of his fellow soldiers. After Nigeria had been conquered - the review's getting into the fighting talk - Tunisia's assistant coach Jalel Kadri hailed his warriors. "I've often said that we don't have 28 players but 28 soldiers and to win big matches you need competitors." And so Hannibal Mejbri was left fresh for the next fight.

Action stations

Burkina Faso and Gabon put on a show for the first match in the last-16 in Limbé. Burkina Faso had six players booked, skipper Bertrand Traoré missed a penalty before scoring while Gabon also had six men booked and Sidney Obissa dismissed for two yellow cards. Gabon levelled when Adama Aguira scored an own-goal in stoppage time. The subsequent penalty shoot-out was a nerve-shredding vignette of 18 penalties. Five of them were missed and Burkina Faso roll on to meet the soldiers after winning it 7-6.

The second from last can be first

After a diasastrous pool campaign in which they lost two of their three matches - one against the lowest ranked team at the competition - and scraped into the last-16 as one of the four best third-placed teams, Tunisia are in the last eight. Still that's where fighting spirit can get you. Or the review prefers to quote a rejoinder from the late great English striker Jimmy Greaves: "Football is a funny old game."

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