Tunisia are writing history by reaching the quarterfinals of the TotalEnergies Women’s Africa Cup of Nations as the Carthage Eagles prepare to take on South Africa in the last quarterfinal.
The North Africans, who are playing at the continental tournament for only the second time, find themselves in unfamiliar territory but according to the head coach Samir Landolsi, this is an opportunity to make even more history.
Back in 2008 when they made their debut, they managed to hold Nigeria to a goalless draw (their only point at the edition) and it is that spirit that Landolsi, who was coach back then, is using to approach this fixture.
“We know that South Africa is one of the best teams in Africa. We saw their match against Nigeria and other teams and they have very good offence and defence, however, we prefer to play against teams like this. When we play against strong teams, we want to see how good we can be. As they say, everything will happen on the pitch,” Landolsi said.
Tunisia qualified for the last eight as the third best team in Group B behind table leaders Zambia (seven points) and Cameroon (five points) after amassing three points thanks to a 4-1 win over debutants Togo.
Sabrine Ellouzi, who scored a brace in this tie as well as poster girl Meriem Houji and Ame Amouklou who netted a goal each will be hoping to find their scoring boots when they take on Banyana Banyana after the Carthage Eagles failed to find the back of the net against Zambia and Cameroon.
“Our team lacks experience at this level so we are going to approach this game from a psychological point of view. We shall speak to the players in this way. We have been improving offensively and defensively so I think we shall see this shift during the game against South Africa,”Landolsi explained.
Meanwhile, South Africa who have already lost star player and reigning African Player of the Year Thembi Kgatlana who was ruled out of the tournament with an injury, will be without some players who have caught the COVID-19 virus and are under isolation.
“Losing Thembi is a big loss. We sympathise with her and wish her a quick recovery as she works towards coming back to the pitch. We have good depth in the team and have other players that can step up. Each player is hungry to be part of the team and to contribute to the team’s objective which is to win the WAFCON and qualify for the World Cup,” explained Thalea Smidt.
The 24 year old midfielder, who played her first WAFCON 2022 game when Banyana Banyana took on Botswana on Sunday replacing Karabo Dhlamini in the 49th minute will be hoping to get more playing time to help the South African cause.
Another youngster who will be hoping to get her first start in national colours is Nthabiseng Majiya who scored the lone goal against Botswana nine minutes after coming on for only her second appearance for South Africa.
The teenage sensation, who scored 20 goals in the national league back home – the second highest in the competition, will be hoping to be consistent at the WAFCON 2022 and step up in place of Kgatlana.
South Africa head coach Desiree Ellis expressed her concern on her team’s need to improve in front of goal. She said, “We miss chances in front of goal but we have been working hard in training. We score a lot in training so now we need to transform that into the games.”
Against Botswana, Banyana Banyana had 26 shots at goal with six of them on target and nine of them inside the box. With this in mind, Ellis expects her side to do better against Tunisia on Thursday at the Moulay Hassan Stadium in Rabat.
“We are coming back to the stadium where we played two group games and Tunisia will be playing there for the first time in this competition but this is a whole different game. This game has nothing to do with three points or a draw but just the winner so we have to execute our plan and hope that it will come out positive,” Ellis explained.
The winner of this game will get an automatic slot at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup set to be held in Asutralia and New Zealand from July 20 to August 20.