Spain put in a dominant performance against heavy hitters Serbia to set up a clash with Poland in the quarter-finals of the FIBA World Cup.

Serbia had the best offense of the tournament heading into Sunday's encounter, but Spain held firm in Wuhan to secure an 81-69 victory and top spot in Group J.

Poland finished second behind Argentina in Group I following a 91-65 defeat to the South Americans, while Russia beat Venezuela 69-60 in the same pool.

Meanwhile, Italy ended their campaign with an impressive comeback against Puerto Rico, Tunisia came out on top by just two points against Angola and South Korea got the better of Ivory Coast.

RUBIO RUNS THE SHOW AS SPAIN STALL SERBIA

Ricky Rubio was in scintillating form as he scored 19 points and added four assists to lead Spain to victory over Serbia, who suffered their first defeat since February.

Rubio was backed up admirably by Marc Gasol and Victor Claver, as Spain earned a fifth successive win.

It was the first time Serbia failed to score 70 points or more in a World Cup match, even though Bogdan Bogdanovic grabbed 26 points in a supreme individual display.

While Spain will face Poland in the last eight, Serbia must rally for a tough test against Argentina.

NIGERIA BOOK OLYMPIC SPOT

Hosts China slipped to an 86-73 defeat in Guangzhou, as Nigeria grasped a place at the 2020 Olympics.

Josh Okogie helped himself to 19 points for Nigeria, with 11 coming in the final quarter. Jianlian Yi was the start of the show with 27 points, but his performance was not enough to secure a Chinese victory.

Nigeria's NBA forward Al-Farouq Aminu said on the FIBA website: "I remember when I joined the team in 2012 we said we did not want to miss an Olympics. It's a beautiful feeling. It's amazing."

China are in danger of missing out on direct qualification for the Olympics, with Iran going above them in the race for Tokyo thanks to their 95-75 win over Philippines.

AZZURRI FIGHT BACK TO OVERCOME PUERTO RICO

Marco Belinelli and Danilo Gallinari inspired Italy to overcome a 26-point deficit as the Azzurri triumphed 94-89 in overtime against Puerto Rico to end a frustrating campaign on a positive note.

Italy had never previously won a World Cup match in which they trailed by 15 points or more at half-time, but Belinelli and Gallinari rallied their team-mates after a timeout taken when 59-33 behind midway through the third quarter.

Belinelli converted a game-high 27 points, while Gallinari became the first Italy player to accumulate more than 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in a World Cup game since 1994.

"It was a very bad game for us in the beginning. We did not show up," Gallinari said. "We knew that we had to come out with a different attitude and different intensity in the second half and I think that we did a great job."

Odion Ighalo was gifted an early goal as Nigeria claimed third place in the Africa Cup of Nations with a 1-0 victory over Tunisia.

Aiming to maintain their perfect record in AFCON third-place play-offs, Nigeria were presented with the lead when Tunisia goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia and defender Yassine Meriah combined to tee up Ighalo.

Wahbi Khazri looked sharp as Tunisia rallied, and created his side's best chance when he set up Firas Chaouat for what should have been a simple finish early in the second half.

Chaouat could not take advantage, though, and while Ben Cherifia's excellent save from Samuel Chukwueze kept Tunisia's hopes alive, Nigeria had little trouble holding on to their lead.

Nigeria had the lead inside three minutes, Ighalo tucking home after Ben Cherifia and Meriah made a mess of Jamilu Collins' cross.

Tunisia responded well and would have been level had Ferjani Sassi's header not been cleared off the line.

Ighalo's game came to an end at half-time - the former Watford striker appearing to suffer a hamstring injury.

Khazri's superb throughball put Chaouat through on goal a minute into the second half, but with only the goalkeeper to beat, Tunisia's substitute lashed into the side netting.

Chukwueze's long-range strike looked to be creeping in just after the hour, but Ben Cherifia made a superb save at full stretch.

Ghilane Chaalali bundled himself into shooting range as full-time approached, though a weak effort wide of the upright was all he could muster as Tunisia ended their tournament with a whimper.

Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr was not disheartened by his team's semi-final defeat, convinced the Super Eagles pushed Algeria all the way as they prepare to tussle with Tunisia in the Africa Cup of Nations third-place play-off.

Rohr's men looked to have forced an extra 30 minutes in their last-four clash on Sunday, as Odion Ighalo's 72nd-minute penalty cancelled out William Troost-Ekong's first-half own goal.

But Riyad Mahrez struck at the end with a gorgeous free-kick, sending Algeria – who have not lost at this year's tournament – into the final, where they will face Senegal.

Although the prospect of a third-place finish is rather underwhelming given how close they were to a final spot, Rohr insists he is not disappointed by Nigeria's showing, pointing out how they shaded Algeria in several areas last time out.

"After our loss to Algeria, we were a bit disappointed because it's disappointing when you lose a game in the last seconds," he told a news conference on Tuesday.

"We've analysed the match, we saw the video with the players yesterday [Monday] and we saw also it was a good match and we gave a good fight.

"The statistics were even better for us, because we had 11 shots on goal, they had only six. We had better possession of the ball against probably the best team so far in the tournament.

"So, losing to them is not a shame and we have to be positive as we want to finish this competition well together."

Tunisia's semi-final was similarly close, as they were defeated 1-0 by Senegal thanks to a Dylan Bronn own goal in extra time.

Most of the Carthage Eagles' matches in the tournament have been tight, with their 3-0 quarter-final win over minnows Madagascar the only game they have emerged victorious from in 90 minutes.

Having gone into extra time twice so far, coach Alain Giresse accepts his side might be struggling with fatigue, suggesting Nigeria may have a physical edge on Wednesday.

"The match will be very difficult, physically and technically," Giresse said. "We'll try everything we can to finish third.

"Of course, we wanted to reach the final, but now we focus on the third-place match. I can't say all my players are perfectly fit, we have a little time to know how ready the players are."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Tunisia - Wahbi Khazri

Even though he was a little quieter than usual against Senegal, Khazri was still one of Tunisia's more threatening players, creating three opportunities. Giresse will certainly be looking to him to make the difference.

Nigeria - Samuel Chukwueze

A lively, dazzling winger at his very best, Chukwueze has simmered at the AFCON without truly exploding. Nevertheless, he crafted three scoring chances against Algeria, more than any of his team-mates.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Nigeria have never lost against Tunisia in four encounters in the AFCON (W2 D2). They will face each other for a third-place game in the competition for the second time after 1978 (Nigeria won 2-0).
- Tunisia have won only one of their three third-place games in the AFCON (D1 L1). It was in 1962 against Uganda (3-0).
- Nigeria have won each of their six third-place games. The Super Eagles can become the team with the most third-place games played in the tournament (seven).
- Tunisia's midfielder Youssef Msakni is the only player involved in at least one goal in each of the last six AFCON editions. He has completed 93.3 per cent of his dribbles in the 2019 event, the highest ratio among players with more than five dribbles attempted.
- Ighalo has been involved in five goals in the 2019 AFCON (four goals, one assist), more than any other player. The striker has been involved in 63 per cent of Nigeria's goals in this edition (five of eight).

Senegal have reached the Africa Cup of Nations final for just the second time in their history having beaten Tunisia 1-0 after extra time in a dramatic match that saw both teams miss penalties.

The 2002 runners-up edged past Uganda and Benin with 1-0 victories in the previous two knockout rounds and maintained their impressive defensive record in Cairo as they eventually found a way past unfortunate Tunisia, who were denied another clear penalty late on.

Henri Saivet wasted a glorious chance to send Senegal through towards the end of normal time in Sunday's clash when failing to convert from the penalty spot, five minutes after Ferjani Sassi had done likewise at the opposite end of the field.

An unfortunate own goal from Dylan Bronn 10 minutes into extra time proved to be the winner for Aliou Cisse's side, who will face either Algeria or Nigeria in Friday's final, but Tunisia felt aggrieved as they were awarded a late penalty only for that decision to be controversially overturned following a VAR check.

Senegal dominated the first half and should have taken a lead into the interval as Youssouf Sabaly hit the frame of the goal with his 18-yard curling attempt. Sadio Mane then fired wide when off balance after doing the hard work by rounding Mouez Hassen.

Taha Khenissi and Sassi came close for Tunisia in the space of a minute at the start of the second half, with the latter at least managing to test Alfred Gomis with his effort.

The game then exploded into life with 17 minutes of normal time to go as both teams were awarded a penalty.

Sassi's shot was blocked by the arm of Kalidou Koulibaly in the box and the midfielder stepped up to take the poorly-taken pen, which Gomis was equal to down to his right.

Senegal were awarded a spot-kick of their own three minutes later after Bronn felled Ismaila Sarr in the box, but Saivet was next to be denied with his attempt towards the bottom-right corner of the net saved.

But Tunisia were unable to make the most of their reprieve as Hassen flapped at a cross, which hit Bronn on the hand and then the face before trickling over the line.

Yet another incredible twist saw the referee point to the penalty spot for a third time with 115 minutes on the clock after Salif Sane headed the ball against Idrissa Gueye's arm, but the initial call was overruled after a VAR check to the anger of Tunisia's players.

Senegal will not underestimate Tunisia as they bid to reach the Africa Cup of Nations final for the second time in their history.

The Lions beat Benin 1-0 courtesy of Idrissa Gueye's 69th-minute strike to reach the last four, keeping a clean sheet for the fourth time at this year's competition.

Only Algeria have managed to breach Senegal's steely defence so far, but on Sunday they go up against a Tunisia side who eased to a 3-0 quarter-final victory over Madagascar.

Senegal coach Aliou Cisse expects another tough challenge, telling a news conference: "Tunisia are a good team who do good things. We won't underestimate anyone and we won't lack concentration.

"There are still two matches to go. We came here with ambition, we hoped to reach the quarter-final, but we'll keep our feet on the ground.

"We haven't reached this stage since 2006. It's been 13 years and Senegal haven't been here, so this already represents a progression.

"We'll have more humility. I believe these are great professionals. I've always been confident in the work we're doing."

Tunisia put in an impressive second-half display against Madagascar, scoring twice in eight minutes before Naim Sliti added a third in second-half stoppage time.

"We are the first to beat Madagascar," Tunisia boss Alain Giresse said. "This proves the quality of this team in this competition.

"We are very satisfied we are in the semi-finals. Now we are at this stage of the competition, which Tunisia had been waiting for for many years. It was an objective.

"We have to play this semi-final with all our weapons and obviously try to go as far as possible. We know what to do about it. We know what to expect.

"We want to finish this competition in style."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Senegal - Alfred Gomis

SPAL goalkeeper Gomis has conceded just once at this year's tournament but his toughest test awaits against Tunisia.

Tunisia - Youssef Msakni

Msakni was instrumental in turning the quarter-final against Madagascar in his team’s favour, providing the assist for Ferjani Sassi's opener before netting the second himself.


KEY OPTA FACTS

- It will be the sixth encounter between Senegal and Tunisia in the Africa Cup of Nations, but the first in semi-finals.
- Senegal have won their last three games in the Africa Cup of Nations, their longest streak in the competition.
- Tunisia will play their sixth Africa Cup of Nations semi-final. The Carthage Eagles have qualified for the final twice previously, against Zambia in 1996 and against Nigeria in 2004.
- Senegal have kept a clean sheet in seven of their last nine games in the Africa Cup of Nations (3 goals conceded overall), after failing to do so in each of their previous 14.
- Tunisia's striker Wahbi Khazri has been involved in 29 shots in the 2019 edition (16 shots attempted, 13 chances created), more than any other player.

Tunisia booked their place in the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals with a 3-0 win on Thursday, ending surprise package Madagascar's outstanding run.

Alain Giresse's side might have expected a serious test against tournament debutants Madagascar, who topped their group ahead of Nigeria and then upset Democratic Republic of Congo on penalties in the last 16.

But Tunisia were dominant in Cairo, squandering chance after chance before Ferjani Sassi's scruffy strike broke Madagascar's resolve.

There was no sign of a response and instead captain Youssef Msakni soon added to Tunisia's advantage, his goal setting up a comfortable conclusion in which Naim Sliti added a late third ahead of Sunday's semi-final against Senegal.

In an open and entertaining start to the game, Sassi almost broke the deadlock in superb fashion, twisting into space on the edge of the area and firing just over the top.

But further chances did not follow for either side until Wahbi Khazri saw a curling 32nd-minute free-kick touched onto the crossbar by Melvin Adrien.

Tunisia thought they had their breakthrough in the opening minute of the second half, but Khazri strayed offside before controlling Yassine Meriah's lofted pass and scuffing into the net.

They did not have to wait long, though, as Sassi again went for goal from 20 yards and this time benefited from a huge deflection off Thomas Fontaine to wrongfoot the goalkeeper.

Msakni then picked out the bottom-left corner to double Tunisia's lead after Adrien denied Khazri once more, with the victors cruising long before substitute Sliti finished off a 93rd-minute counter to complete the scoring.

Africa Cup of Nations debutants Madagascar are not a team Tunisia should take lightly in the quarter-finals, according to Naim Sliti.

The Eagles of Carthage, who won the continental competition for the only time in 2004, have made it to the last eight without winning a game outright - their victory over Ghana in the last 16 only came via a penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw.

Tunisia's reward for eliminating one of the tournament heavyweights is a last-eight tie against surprise package Madagascar, which they are strong favourites to win.

But attacking midfielder Sliti insisted there is still plenty of room for improvement and he is not taking anything for granted.

"I think we reacted against Ghana after the poor group matches we played," he told Goal. "I knew we were going to bounce back. 

"We have to continue like that. We must not be carried away by this victory. It was difficult. We need to fix our mistakes, like what happened when we were leading Ghana 1-0. 

"We were playing too much at the back. You must not do that. We will continue with our preparation. There is a huge game ahead. By God's grace it shall be fine."

Madagascar have defied the odds to make it this far in the competition, having defeated Democratic Republic of Congo on penalties in the last 16 after toppling a much-fancied Nigeria to finish first in Group B.

And with opponents Tunisia yet to impress in Egypt, Anicet Abel is confident Madagascar can prolong their dream run and possibly lift the cup.

"We are happy with the victory over DR Congo and it shows that we are capable of winning the Africa Cup of Nations," he said.

"Now that we have scaled the Congolese hurdle, we will work very hard for our next game. With our players and great staff, we'll do everything to go as far as we can."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Madagascar - Lalaina Nomenjanahary 

Madagascar have scored seven goals in their four matches in Egypt and Nomenjanahary has played a direct role in two of their four most-recent efforts, netting one and setting up another.

Tunisia - Wahbi Khazri

Saint-Etienne winger Khazri failed to make a telling impact against Mauritania or Ghana, but he has scored two of Tunisia's last four goals in the Africa Cup of Nations.


KEY OPTA FACTS

- Madagascar are the first team to reach the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations in their first participation since Cape Verde in 2013.
- Tunisia will play the their 10th AFCON quarter-final. They have failed to advance in their past five appearances at this stage.

Tunisia recorded yet another shock result at this year's Africa Cup of Nations by beating Ghana 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw to reach the quarter-finals.

Alain Giresse's side drew all three of their group games but seemed set for a first victory thanks to Taha Khenissi's second-half strike, only for substitute Rami Bedoui to head an own goal with his first touch in added time.

Tunisia sent on goalkeeper Farouk Ben Mustapha to replace Mouez Hassen ahead of the shoot-out and he kept out Caleb Ekuban's poor effort, allowing Ferjani Sassi to hit the winning spot-kick and book a last-eight clash with tournament debutants Madagascar.

Kasim Adams hit the post with a header and Andre Ayew was unable to convert the rebound as Ghana started on top at Ismailia Stadium on Monday.

Ghana had the ball in the net before half-time, Andre Ayew flicking home from close range, but the goal was disallowed as Thomas Partey was offside in the build-up.

Tunisia's star man Wahbi Khazri was not deemed fit enough to start but was thrown on midway through the second half with the game in the balance.

Khazri was immediately in the thick of the action with Khenissi heading his corner against the crossbar, before Tunisia found the breakthrough in the 73rd minute.

A Khazri backheel freed Wajdi Kechrida and Khenissi arrived to steer home the low cross, his deflected shot clipping the inside of the post.

Hassen made a brilliant save to tip Mubarak Wakaso's curling effort onto the woodwork but the Black Stars equalised in the 91st minute.

Adams floated a free-kick into the box and Bedoui - who had just replaced Khenissi - sent a looping header into his own net.

Jordan Ayew missed the best chance in extra time and Tunisia, who had not beaten Ghana in seven previous AFCON attempts, progressed as Giresse's decision to send on Ben Mustapha for the penalties paid off.

Tunisia coach Alain Giresse urged his side to take full advantage of the shock exits of Africa Cup of Nations favourites Egypt and Morocco as they prepare to face Ghana in the last 16.

Despite failing to win a single game in the group phase, Tunisia progressed with Mali and face tricky opposition next in a Ghana side who have been improving with every match.

With hosts Egypt and Morocco out after surprise defeats to South Africa and Benin respectively, there is an opportunity for others to stake their claim for the title.

Giresse recognises the chance that is now open to Tunisia and is prepared to make the most of Ghana's "weak points" in their quest for a quarter-final spot.

"Egypt and Morocco's exits are a huge surprise and we will give everything to continue in the tournament," he told reporters.

"Ghana are a strong and harmonious team. They are complete in most of the positions, but we analysed them well and we can work on their weak points."

Forward Taha Yassine Khenissi, who scored in Tunisia's final warm-up game against Burundi but has yet to find the net in the tournament, said: "We face Ghana with one aim, which is winning and qualifying.

"We don't think about the group matches. You'll see a fresh face for the national team and all the players are united to qualify the national team."

Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah, whose side came through the group stage without losing a game, underlined the importance of mental toughness going into the round of 16.

The Black Stars topped Group F after holding Benin and Cameroon to draws and beating Guinea-Bissau, and Appiah warned his players against underestimating Tunisia, who came second in Group E behind Mali.

"The most important thing is to think about Tunisia's game now," said Appiah. "We plead to all Ghanaians to keep supporting the team with a positive mindset.

"My team is prepared both mentally and physically for the game on Monday.

"All our minds are on the game against Tunisia because we need to win the game on Monday so that we can think about other opponents.

"Every team in the tournament is well prepared and ready to win the trophy so we will not underrate any opponent we meet in the tournament."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Tunisia - Wahbi Khazri

Tunisia have reached the round of 16 despite scoring just two goals at this year's tournament, one of which was a Wahbi Khazri free-kick, and the Saint-Etienne attacker will be a threat at dead-ball situations against Ghana.

Ghana - Baba Rahman

Chelsea full-back Rahman was in inspired form in the 2-0 win over Guinea-Bissau, providing the assists for Jordan Ayew and Thomas Partey to score and, if he is given space down the left, he can hurt Tunisia.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- It will be the eighth game between Ghana and Tunisia in the Africa Cup of Nations. The Carthage Eagles are the are the Black Stars' favourite opposition in the tournament, having faced them the most without losing (W6 D1).
- Ghana have been eliminated in seven of their last 11 games in the knockout phase of the Africa Cup of Nations, after qualifying in five of their previous seven.
- Tunisia have been eliminated in their past five knockout games in the Africa Cup of Nations, their last success beyond the group phase being the 2004 final against Morocco (2-1), when they hosted the tournament.

Tunisia sealed qualification for the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations despite a lacklustre 0-0 draw against Mauritania.

Alain Giresse's side made it three draws out of three in Group E – enough for second place behind Mali, who overcame Angola 1-0.

Mauritania came into the match having recorded a solitary shot on target in their first two matches but were the better side before the break against a lacklustre Tunisia at Suez Stadium.

Ghana are up next for the Eagles of Carthage, having swatted aside Guinea-Bissau to top Group F earlier on Tuesday.

Mouez Hassen was at fault for Mali's opener in Tunisia's 1-1 draw last time out and he unconvincingly pushed Ismael Diakite's early attempt behind.

Mauritania lost captain Abdoul Ba to injury in the 17th minute but they remained in the ascendancy – Moctar Sidi El Hacen heading wastefully wide from close range.

Hassen denied Bessam and saw Diakite power over either side of Youssef Msakni forcing a save from Brahim Souleymane on a rare Tunisia attack.

The introduction of Taha Khenissi in place of Bassem Srarfi at the break heralded an improvement from Giresse's men.

Msakni exchanged passes with Wahbi Khazri but shot too close to Souleymane, who gathered the Tunisia captain's header as a forgettable encounter approached its conclusion.

Tunisia coach Alain Giresse has concerns over his goalkeepers following a pair of errors to start their Africa Cup of Nations campaign.

Following a mistake from Farouk Ben Mustapha in a 1-1 draw with Angola in Tunisia's opening Group E match, Giresse changed his keeper to face Mali.

However, a blunder from Mouez Hassen led to Mali's opener and only Wahbi Khazri's deflected strike rescued a share of the spoils.

Tunisia head into Tuesday's clash with tournament debutants Mauritania in need of a victory to ensure their progression to the last 16 and Giresse did not shy away from acknowledging Tunisia's problem between the posts.

"The match is very important and we are obliged to win to qualify for the next round," Giresse told a news conference.

"I admit that we have a problem concerning goalkeepers and we changed ours in the first matches."

After a 4-1 defeat to Mali, Mauritania drew 0-0 with Angola on Saturday to get themselves on the board in Group E.

They would need to cause a huge upset to claim the win required to have a chance of going through as one of the best third-placed sides, and coach Corentin Martins conceded qualification for the last 16 is unlikely, though not impossible.

"I wanted to focus on defence because in the first game we conceded four goals," he told a news conference.

"We have to be happy with an historic first point. We can qualify, even if our chances are one per cent.

"It's going to be a final for us and we hope to roll out a great performance."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Mauritania – Adama Ba

Adama Ba went close to breaking the deadlock against Angola and will be keen to make up for his miss in Tuesday's match.

Tunisia – Wahbi Khazri

While Tunisia's goalkeepers have been letting them down, Khazri has performed well at the other end of the pitch. His free-kick salvaged a point against Mali and was just reward for some excellent play. The former Sunderland playmaker will be key to breaking down Mauritania.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Tunisia have lost only one of their last nine AFCON group stage games.
- Mauritania had one shot on target in their first two outings, fewer than any other side.
- Tunisia have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 12 AFCON games, last doing so in 2013 against Algeria.
- Khazri has scored two of Tunisia's last three AFCON goals.

Wahbi Khazri boosted Tunisia's hopes of progressing into the Africa Cup of Nations knockout stages as his free-kick secured a 1-1 draw with Mali.

Having drawn against Angola in their first outing, Tunisia's chances of a last-16 place looked set to take a huge blow when Mouez Hassen fumbled Diadie Samassekou's corner into his own net with an hour played.

But Tunisia were level 10 minutes later when a set-piece from Khazri - who hit the crossbar early on - deflected in off Moussa Marega.

The draw sees Mali retain top spot in Group E, while Tunisia sit second, although Angola or Mauritania would overtake the North African side with a win when they face one another on Saturday.

Tunisia coach Alain Giresse was irritated by his side's display against Angola, but the Eagles of Carthage started well - Khazri coming agonisingly close with a dipping free-kick.

Khazri, who also tried to catch Djigui Diarra off his line early on, went close again just after the half hour, sending a low effort wide from the edge of the box. 

Taha Khenissi spurned a glorious chance with a close-range header and Tunisia were made to pay for their profligacy when Hassen calamitously dropped Samassekou's cross over his goal line.

Tunisia rallied, though, and luck was on their side when Khazri's set piece, which looked to be on target, looped in off Marega.

Mali's Porto forward seemed set to snatch the points in stoppage time, but Hassen raced out to make a fine save and ensure the spoils were shared at Suez Stadium.

 

Tunisia coach Alain Giresse hopes Mali's opening Africa Cup of Nations performance inspires his team when the two sides meet on Friday, as he tries to ignore criticism of the Carthage Eagles.

Giresse's side headed into the tournament as one of the favourites, but they endured an underwhelming start with a 1-1 draw with Angola.

By contrast, their next opponents Mali hammered Mauritania 4-1 in a morale-boosting display that Giresse was impressed with.

Former France international Giresse has been in the job since December, but fielded criticism for apparent pragmatic tactics and team selections, the flak for the latter particularly coming after the Angola stalemate.

The situation has frustrated him, as he looks to remain focused on the matter at hand.

"We have an important and fateful match on Friday and we have to move away from criticism, focusing on winning, not other things," he told reporters.

"It's not natural that I am talking about my team changes, and I have the right to keep them completely [to myself] without talking about them.

"What I want to assure is the strength of the group we're in. We tried to work on this and express that. The last match didn't show what we're capable of.

"I followed Mali and their win and they were at the top level of the tournament. They showed a lot of strength, which we'll definitely get inspired by.

"We aim to qualify, that's the most important thing. So, there's no problem about being first or second."

Despite the impressive start against Mauritania, Mali coach Mohamed Magassouba is keen for his team not to become arrogant.

While most praised their performance in Suez, Magassouba took the opportunity in Thursday's pre-match news conference to give his team a confidence check.

"We have a young team, so we mustn't get carried away," he said. "We must go forward, match by match, opponent by opponent.

"The AFCON has just started for all of us and we were against a Mauritania team with talent. We had set up a system, but from the start my team sinned by leaving midfield spaces and opened up to the opponent.

"It was difficult for us, but during the second period we had to go forward, to hit the Mauritania defence and that allowed us to score four goals.

"We must know that Mali has ambitions to go far in this competition."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Tunisia - Youssef Msakni

The disappointing performance by Tunisia last time out leaves them in a slightly more precarious position than they would like. Generally, they were blunt in attack, with Msakni the only one who showed any real potency, creating three chances – no one else managed more than one – and scoring a penalty.

Mali – Adama Traore

Adama Traore – not to be confused with team-mate Adama Traore – was the star of the show for Mali in their opener. The Monaco-owned attacking midfielder scored, got an assist and was generally lively in the final third, creating a further five chances. Tunisia can be expected to get forward more than Mauritania, meaning the 23-year-old could have even more space to play with.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Tunisia and Mali's only previous AFCON encounter came in March 1994, the latter winning 2-0 in the group stage.
- There have been no draws between Tunisia and Mali in all competitions (five wins for Tunisia, four for Mali).
- Tunisia have won only three of their last 11 games in the Africa Cup of Nations (D4 L4), after winning three of their previous five (L2).
- Mali have won only two of their last 12 games in the Africa Cup of Nations (D7 L3).
- Four of Tunisia's last six goals in the Africa Cup of Nations have been scored following set-pieces situations (three penalties, one from a corner).

Djalma cancelled out Youssef Msakni's penalty as Angola secured a 1-1 draw with Tunisia in Group E of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Monday's clash in Suez saw few clear chances created by either side, with Tunisia captain Msakni seemingly having stepped up to seal all three points for his team.

Naim Sliti was brought down in the box late in the first half and Msakni made no mistake with the resulting spot-kick, but Angola hit back and claimed a deserved point when Djalma slotted home.

Angola had the better of the opening 45 minutes but Tunisia took the lead in the 34th minute.

A sweeping counter-attack led to Sliti cutting inside Paizo and shaping to shoot, with the defender's desperate lunge bringing him down, leaving Msakni to convert from 12 yards.

Gelson Dala fired off target as Angola continued to press, but Srdjan Vasiljevic's team appeared unable to find a way to break Tunisia down. 

Msakni had a penalty appeal rejected in the 71st minute when referee Bamlak Tessema Weyesa adjudged the striker to have gone down too easily in the area.

But Tunisia have kept just one clean sheet in their last 17 Africa Cup of Nations matches and Angola levelled with their next attack.

Goalkeeper Farouk Ben Mustapha made an error in pushing Mateus' shot back into the danger zone, leaving Djalma to pounce from close range.

Tunisia had late chances to retake the lead but, after finding space in the box with some neat footwork, Wahbi Khazri curled his low shot wide, then Msakni drilled straight at Tony Cabaca in added time.

Tunisia coach Alain Giresse said his players are prepared for the Egyptian heat and are full of desire to go all the way at the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time since 2004 as they ready themselves to face Angola in their opening match.

The Carthage Eagles get their finals campaign underway at Suez Stadium in Ismailia on Monday with every reason to be confident after beating World Cup finalists Croatia 2-1 in their penultimate warm-up game.

Giresse's men are favourites to top Group E, which also features Mali and tournament debutants Mauritania, and the former France midfielder said he is satisfied with his players' preparations.

"We hope to make an exceptional Cup of Nations," he told reporters.

"All players are motivated by the desire to negotiate all three matches and go further in this tournament.

"We put emphasis on the technical, physical and mental aspects of the players so that they are in top condition to start the tournament and ready to overcome any difficulties, such as the heat.

"The players are showing great determination and good morale. The experience that some players have is going to help the team to take up the challenge and make the difference."

Angola are making their eighth appearance at the tournament and will hope to progress beyond the group stage for the third time, as they previously did in 2008 and 2010.

Head coach Srdjan Vasiljevic admitted his players "surprised everyone" by qualifying for the tournament after failing to reach the last two editions, and Giresse insisted his side would not underestimate their opponents.

"The task will not be easy against Angola, who have very strong players," said Giresse, who is entering his fifth tournament having twice taken Mali to the finals as well as managing Gabon and Senegal, respectively, at AFCON.

"[They are] physical, but also endowed with great technical qualities that we must pay attention to," he added.

Tunisia midfielder Wajdi Kechrida, who plays his club football for Etoile Sportive du Sahel in his home country, said temperatures upwards of 30 degrees would not come as a surprise to his team-mates.

"Most players are used to the conditions in which this kind of African competition takes place, such as heat, so it will not be a handicap for us," Kechrida said.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Tunisia - Wahbi Khazri

Khazri's performances for Saint-Etienne in 2018-19 were a consistent positive in a turgid season for the Ligue 1 club, the 28-year-old forward scoring 13 goals in 32 domestic appearances before netting for Tunisia in their 2-0 friendly win over Iraq.

Angola - Gelson

Fleet-footed winger Gelson scored five Premeira Division goals in 19 appearances while on loan at Rio Ave in 2018-19 and is highly rated by parent club Sporting CP. His ability to get in behind Tunisia's defence will be the focus when Angola get opportunities to attack.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Tunisia and Angola's only previous encounter at the Africa Cup of Nations ended goalless, it was in the 2008 group stages.
- This is Tunisia's 19th AFCON participation, a tally only bettered by Egypt (24), Ivory Coast (23) and Ghana (22). Their only AFCON title dates back to 2004, as hosts; since then, they have not progressed further than the quarter-finals.
- Tunisia have only kept one clean sheet in their last 16 AFCON games, it was against Algeria in January 2013 (1-0).
- Angola have reached the knockout stages in only two of their previous seven AFCON appearances (2008, 2010 as hosts) and never further than the quarter-finals.

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