Date: Wednesday 17th July
Stadium: Al Salam Stadium
The Eagles of Carthage’s late defeat to Senegal could scarcely have been narrower, with both sides seeing penalties saved in normal time.
Compounding their misery after victory had seemed within their grasp, Dylan Bronn lucklessly registered a 100th-minute own-goal as goalkeeper Mouez Hassen’s save from a Sadio Mane free-kick rebounded off the defender’s head and into the net.
Tunisia also missed out on a 113th-minute penalty when an initial refereeing decision was overturned by VAR.
Still, they have been on an encouraging run of form since losing their first two fixtures at the 2018 World Cup – and even then, they proved typically difficult to beat during a 2-1 opening loss to England.
Coach Alain Giresse, a former Footballer of the Year in France, had led Tunisia to just one defeat in 10 before their semi-final loss, including a win in Croatia during the build-up to this summer’s tournament.
They are resolutely hard to break down and eventually disposed of Madagascar comfortably in the quarter-finals, seeing off the tournament surprise packages by scoring three goals without reply in the second half.
All of the goals conceded by Tunisia at this year’s tournament have arrived in the final third of matches, with both of the goals scored against them in the knockout stages coming after the 90th minute.
Recent AFCON form: DDDWWL
Tunisia possible starting lineup:
Mouez; Bronn, Meriah, Hadadi, Khazri; Sassi, Lamti, Skhiri; B Mohamed, Msakni, Khenissi
If Tunisia’s final four match was breathless, Nigeria’s tumultuous clash with Algeria was every bit as action-packed, as well as offering a more sudden and spectacular conclusion.
As the 94th minute ticked past in Cairo, few could have foreseen even a player of Riyad Mahrez’s class producing the masterful free-kick that sent the Manchester City winger’s side into the final.
That proved the last action of the game and an unforgiving end to a campaign in which they have frequently entertained, knocking out reigning champions Cameroon 3-2 before seeing off an upwardly mobile South Africa 2-1.
Algeria have been arguably the best team in the tournament this year, but Nigeria will feel frustrated not to have held on to the parity provided by Odion Ighalo’s 72nd-minute penalty, awarded for handball following a lengthy VAR check.
That said, coach Gernot Rohr will have been vexed by the surprising lack of threat and creativity manifested by Nigeria for much of the semi-final leading up to their penalty.
Nigeria’s opponents dominated much of the encounter and hit the woodwork shortly before scoring the winner, outplaying the Super Eagles when many had thought their superior experience in the latter stages of the tournament could count for more.
Mahrez haunted them early on to force the opener, outfoxing his markers before seeing his cross diverted into the Nigeria net via the midriff of defender William Troost-Ekong, who scored their late quarter-final winner against South Africa.
Nigeria may feel they have a point to prove in the settler for bronze after an underwhelming semi-final showing that resulted in their second loss of the tournament, following up a shock group stage setback when they slumped to a 2-0 defeat against Madagascar.
They have not won by more than a single goal in any of their matches and, having kept four straight clean sheets in the build-up to that loss to Madagascar, have now conceded in four of their last five games.
Rohr was in pragmatic mood following the end of their bid to become champions, praising a squad that was the youngest at the 2018 World Cup and admitting that their tactical and technical quality will improve with age.
Recent AFCON form: WWLWWL
Nigeria possible starting lineup:
Akpeyi; Ekong, Omeruo, Awaziem, Collins; Kalu, Musa, Etebo; Chukwueze, Onyekuru; Ighalo
Prediction : Tunisia 1-1 Nigeria