AFCON 2021: We respect Nigeria but battle-ready for anything — Tunisia

Tunisia’s Assistant Coach, Jalel Kadri, says they are battle-ready for the Round of 16 clash with Nigeria at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) on Sunday in Garoua.

Kadri who represented Head Coach Mondher Kebaier at a pre-match press conference on Saturday in Garoua said this was in spite of the lot of respect they have for Nigeria at the tournament.

The News Agency of Nigeria of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Sunday’s encounter between Nigeria and Tunisia will take place at the Stade Roumdé Adjia in Garoua from 8 p.m.

“We respect Nigeria, because they are a formidable side. But, as you know also, Tunisia are a side with a rich history in the AFCON. We thrive on collective effort and always have a positive mindset.

“We have experienced players and the Nigerian team must also realise that they are meeting a battle-ready Tunisian team and we will do everything to ensure that we win the game.

“We are still ambitious and very hopeful. It is true that our strengths have been reduced, but it can happen to any team in football.

Kadri, whose team has also been ravaged by positive COVID-19 tests, said his team were going into the game against Nigeria with a positive mind-set.

As at late Saturday evening, there were no indications as to whether some of their star players, such as Wahbi Khazri, will return for the game.

“The COVID-19 virus has ravaged our team but we are hopeful that the players available can rise to the challenge.

“This situation was imposed on us and we have been forced to take some hard decisions on the field of play.

“It is not only about the players but also our technical staff, but we will try to manage the situation to ensure that victory goes to our side,” the coach said.

On the number of players affected by COVID-19 and those who have recovered, Kadri said there was no information about that at the moment.

He however added that the players available were ready to play.

“We do not yet have information about how many players will be available for the game as we are still waiting for the test results.

“We have 23 players that are ready and prepared to give their best against all odds.

“Technically speaking, we are ready, in spite of the difficult situation we have found ourselves. But we have to adapt.

“We have our principles as well as our strengths and weaknesses and know what it takes to confront our opponents,” the coach said.

Meanwhile, Super Eagles’ Head Coach, Augustine Eguavoen, says his team will not underrate their opponents during their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Round of 16 fixture on Sunday.

The News Agency of Nigeria of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Sunday’s game between Nigeria and Tunisia will take place at the Stade Roumdé Adjia in Garoua, Cameroon from 8 p.m.

The Tunisian camp had been somewhat ravaged by positive COVID tests and there were no indications yet as to whether some star players, including Wahbi Khazri, will return for the game.

Eguavoen however told newsmen during a pre-match press conference on Saturday in Garoua that in spite of the Carthage Eagles’ challenges his team would remain focused on the job ahead.

“Yes, Tunisia may have struggled during the group stage, but don’t forget that they are a powerhouse when it comes to African football.

“So, we (will) go out there to play (well) against Tunisia tomorrow (Sunday). We are not going to underrate them and they are not going to underrate us as well.

“We (will) go into the game with the same approach, and same aggression (as we have done before) because we have a target set for ourselves and this is the process.

“To get in there we have to work hard, work extra hard.  Our opponents are technically very good and very organised. But things have not really been going well for them and we understand that.

“But tomorrow (Sunday) may just be different. So, we will not just take our legs off the pedal,” he said.

The coach disclosed that his team was well prepared and have been working hard in all areas and aspects of the game ahead of the match.

“In this competition, the standard is so high (so much) that everybody prepares both defensively and offensively.

“We can’t tell where the goals will come from. It could either be from free-kicks, the penalty kick spot or from corner-kicks.

“We work on those things. The other time, Semi Ajayi came close, Taiwo Awoniyi also came close and we have also not conceded from those set-pieces either.

“But, hopefully, we will do that tomorrow (on Sunday). We are working on those things. But we have not just been working on penalty kicks. We are working all round,” he said.

On his selection of starting players for the game, Eguavoen said there was no reservation or preferential treatment for any player, adding that whoever was called upon would give his best.

“We are here with 27 players. Everyone is here to play. But we can’t use more than 11 players to start tomorrow.

“So, whoever is called upon will give his best. I always tell the boys to give 100 percent. No reservation or preference for players.

“I always tell them, `if you are tired during games, simply signify to the bench and we will do the needful’,” he said.

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