Msakni magic stuns Nigeria and sends Tunisia into quarters

Youssef Msakni struck as Covid-hit Tunisia stunned 10-man Nigeria 1-0 to advance to the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals.

The Tunisia captain powered home a low shot from outside the penalty area two minutes into the second half to bundle Nigeria out of the tournament.

Nigeria had been the only side to win all three of their games in the group phase and were overwhelming favourites as Tunisia battled without seven players, who were isolating because of Covid-19.

But Tunisia, who also had to do without coach Mondher Kebaier because of Covid-19, advanced to meet Burkina Faso in next Saturday’s quarter-final in Garoua.

There were few chances in the game with Tunisia producing a stout defensive performance and looking for counter-attacking opportunities.

Tunisia's players celebrate after scoring the opening goal during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 round of 16 football match between Nigeria and Tunisia at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 23, 2022
Image: Tunisia’s players mob Youseff Msakni after his goal against Nigeria

Nigeria were unable to get any flow to their play, despite having beaten Egypt, Sudan and Guinea Bissau in their earlier games.

They were reduced to 10 men when Alex Iwobi was sent off for a dangerous tackle in the 66th minute, seven minutes after coming on.

The referee originally handed him a caution but was encouraged to review the sanction on the pitchside VAR screen, before changing his mind and sending Iwobi off.

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Nigeria substitute Alex Iwobi was sent off for a reckless challenge after a VAR check

The 31-year-old Msakni, competing in his seventh Cup of Nations finals but starting his first match of the tournament, was given time to line up his shot and it swerved to catch out the Nigeria goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, who only managed to get a hand to it.

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„We got punished for one mistake,“ said Nigeria coach Augustine Eguavoen.

„Alex should not have been given a red card but the referee saw it differently. But congratulations to Tunisia.“

It was a remarkable turnaround for the North Africans, who had lost two of their three opening-round games, including an embarrassing 1-0 defeat to Gambia three days ago.

Nigeria's players react after losing the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 round of 16 football match between Nigeria and Tunisia at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 23, 2022
Image: A dejected Nigeria bench react as the final whistle goes against Tunisia

They managed to get some players back out of isolation ahead of Sunday’s match but assistant coach Jalel Kadri had to take over for the game.

Nigeria threw players forward near the end and substitute Umar Sadiq might well have forced a stoppage-time equaliser but his effort went agonisingly wide of the goal.

AFCON 2021 round-of-16 fixtures and results

Burkina Faso 1-1 Gabon, (Burkina win 7-6 on penalties)
Nigeria 0-1 Tunisia

Monday January 24

Game 3: Guinea vs Gambia, 4pm (Kouekong Stadium, Bafoussam) – Live on Sky Sports Football
Game 4: Cameroon vs Comoros, 7pm (Olembe Stadium, Yaounde) – Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Tuesday January 25

Game 5: Senegal vs Cape Verde, 4pm (Kouekong Stadium, Bafoussam) – Live on Sky Sports Football
Game 6: Morocco vs Malawi, 7pm (Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaounde) – Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Wednesday January 26

Game 7: Ivory Coast vs Egypt, 4pm (Japoma Stadium, Douala) – Live on Sky Sports Football
Game 8: Mali vs Equatorial Guinea, 7pm (Limbe Stadium, Limbe) – Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Sky Sports to show AFCON live

The Africa Cup of Nations tournament will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in January and February.

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The tournament, originally scheduled to be played in June and July 2021, will be played in Cameroon between January 9 and February 6, 2022, with Sky Sports showing all 52 games live.

Twenty-four teams will take part, kicking off on January 9 as hosts Cameroon host Burkina Faso in Yaounde, before culminating in the final on February 6 in the capital.

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