Algeria and Tunisia go head-to-head in a fascinating north African battle in Group D at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday
The match at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg has the potential to be one of the clashes of the opening round of competition and also could have a major say in who qualifies from what is likely to be a hotly contested pool.
With Cote d’Ivoire and Togo the other teams in this foursome, it has been labeled the Group of Death, and both Algeria and Tunisia have spoken of the importance of getting off to a good start.
“The match against Tunisia will determine our future in this competition,” says coach Vahid Halilhodzic, who ironically was in charge of Cote d'Ivoire when they were ousted by Algeria in the quarterfinals in 2010.
“Anything is possible at the Cup of Nations. Honestly, who bet even one dime that Zambia would win the last competition [in 2012]? I can assure Algerians that we will not be in South Africa as tourists.
“My squad is inexperienced but full of desire to do well. Although I am optimistic, it will not be a major surprise if we are eliminated after the opening round. If we get to the quarter-finals you never know what can happen, but we have to get there first and it starts with a positive result from our outing against Tunisia.”
It is a view backed up by Algeria forward Mohamed Amine Aoudia: “This game is very important to us. It could be the key to our qualification for the quarter-finals.”
The Fennec Foxes have had a decent build-up top the tournament, though they did look below par in their warm-up match with South Africa that finished 0-0. They faded badly in the game and could well be affected by the altitude here again.
Tunisia have come in for some criticism of their form in the lead-up to the tournament, having been thumped 4-2 by Ghana, and also completed disappointing draws against Ethiopia and Gabon.
All of those occurred at the teams camp in UAE and they were one of the last teams to arrive in South Africa for the tournament.
The Tunisians can count on recent experience for some hope though, they were not expected to feature prominently at the 2012 finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, but reached the quarterfinals before losing narrowly to Ghana in extra-time.
Algeria edge the head-to-head between these two sides slightly with 15 wins to 11, but surprisingly perhaps, this is the first time they are meeting in the continental finals.