Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, the North African country’s first democratically elected leader, died Thursday at the age of 92, his office said.
The veteran politician, the oldest head of state after Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, came to power in 2014, three years after the Arab Spring uprising toppled longtime despot Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked revolts in several Arab nations.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria have won their eighth bronze medal of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Nigerian forward Odion Ighalo handed Gernot Rhor’s side victory with his second-minute goal in the third-place match against Tunisia at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo on Wednesday night.
The Nigerian forward also dominates the leading goalscorers’ chart with a total of five goals in the tournament.
He is being followed by Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez and Adam Ounas, as well as DR Congo’s Cedric Bakambu and Sadio Mane of Senegal with three goals each.
Despite claiming his first AFCON medal, the Chinese based striker seemed not so good as he limped off the pitch after pulling his hamstring while he attempted to make a pass.
He, however, looks forward to winning the golden boot of the tournament, should Mane, Marez, and Ounas fail to score two goals on Friday.
Few minutes after Ighalo’s goal, Nigeria’s Kenneth Omeruo made a wonderful interception to cut out Taha Khenissi’s shot from the right after the Tunisian was sent through by a great curl from skipper Wahbi Khazri.
While the game was ongoing, the Super Eagles played too deep in their own half, paving the way for midfielders Sassi and Joris Skhiri take charge of the match.
After the restart, the North African side took charge again and were close to a goal just two minutes in.
Khazri sent substitute Firas Chaouat through, but the striker missed a one-on-one opportunity with goalkeeper Francis Uzoho as his shot hit the side of the net.
Nigeria also had a chance to extend their lead when Chukwueze picked the ball at the edge of the box but his effort was diverted behind for a corner by Ben Chirifia.
Tunisia fought hard for an equaliser in the keenly watched match but Nigeria defended the lone goal to return with at least a medal.
In the semi-final matches played on Sunday, Nigeria lost to Algeria 2-1 while Senegal beat Tunisia 1-0.
Algeria and Tunisia will fight for the trophy on Friday at the Cairo International Stadium.
Tunisia ended Madagascar’s fairytale Africa Cup of Nations run in the quarter-finals on Thursday with a 3-0 win over the tournament debutants in Cairo.
Ferjani Sassi’s heavily deflected strike gave Tunisia the lead early in the second half at Al-Salam Stadium and Youssef Msakni squeezed home a second on 60 minutes.
Naim Sliti added a third in injury time to send Tunisia through to a semi-final showdown with Sadio Mane’s Senegal, with the Carthage Eagles into the last four for the first time since clinching their only title when they hosted the 2004 edition.
Tunisia boss Alain Giresse recalled Wahbi Khazri in attack as the lone change to the side that overcame Ghana in a last-16 penalty shootout, while Marco Ilaimaharitra returned from suspension as Madagascar fielded the same team used throughout the group phase.
Tunisia, the continent’s second-ranked side at 25th in the world, had reached the quarter-finals here without winning a single game following four successive draws.
After matches in Suez and Ismailia, this was a first Cairo outing for the Carthage Eagles, who controlled possession early but didn’t truly threaten until a sweetly struck Khazri free-kick was superbly flicked onto the bar by Madagascar goalkeeper Melvin Adrien.
Ghailene Chaalali forced Adrien to push an awkward low shot behind while Mouez Hassen, apologetic after his angry reaction to being substituted ahead of the shootout in the last round, was a largely untested bar from a long-range Ibrahim Amada effort.
Madagascar was trying to become the first newcomers since South Africa in 1996 to reach the semi-finals, but their hopes were effectively extinguished by the hour.
Khazri saw a goal disallowed for offside straight after half-time, but Sassi struck minutes later when his tame shot from the edge of the area hit Thomas Fontaine and spun past a helpless Adrien.
Msakni then promptly doubled Tunisia’s advantage, jumping on a rebound to slip the ball low beyond Adrien moments after he parried a shot from Khazri.
Charles Andriamahitsinoro, who scored twice for Madagascar in the group stage, looked to be through on goal after a long punt forward but failed to muster a shot. Amada was unable to reproduce his wonder strike from the DR Congo tie as he sliced wide from distance.
This was the first competitive meeting between the countries in almost two decades, and while Nicolas Dupuis has transformed Madagascar from a team once ranked 190th, Sliti’s injury-time goal ensured it was the end of a remarkable adventure for the ‘Barea’.
Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen apologised Tuesday for his furious reaction to being substituted ahead of a penalty shootout against Ghana at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Hassen, 24, was replaced by Farouk Ben Mustapha right at the end of extra time in Monday’s last 16 clash that Tunisia won 5-4 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in Ismailia.
“I want to come back on yesterday’s incident and I will start first of all by offering an apology to the coach, my teammates as well as the supporters of the national team,” Hassen tweeted, putting his “regrettable reaction” down to the “pressure of the match”.
Tunisia defeated Ghana 5-4 on penalties Monday with Ferjani Sassi converting the decisive spot-kick to end a 54-year Africa Cup of Nations losing streak against the Black Stars.
After a 1-1 draw following extra time in Ismailia, Tunisia scored from all five penalties while Ghana substitute Caleb Ekusan had his attempt saved by Farouk Ben Mustapha, who came off the bench especially for the shootout.
Victory was sweet for Tunisia as they had lost six times to Ghana in the African football showcase from 1965 after drawing the first meeting between the nations two years earlier.
On Thursday, the Carthage Eagles play giantkillers, Madagascar in a quarter-final in Cairo with the winners meeting Senegal or Benin for a place in the July 19 final.
Losing on penalties ended a Ghana run of six consecutive top-four finishes in the Cup of Nations and puts the future of coach Kwesi Appiah in doubt.
Four-time former champions Ghana changed two of the team that began a 2-0 win over Guinea-Bissau that enabled them to pip Cameroon for top spot in Group F on goals scored.
Both alterations were on the left side of a 4-3-3 formation with defender Nuhu Kasim and midfielder Afriyie Acquah replacing Joseph Aidoo and Owusu Kwabena.
Tunisia coach and 1980s France star Alain Giresse reacted to an embarrassing 0-0 draw with minnows Mauritania in their previous match by dropping four of the team.
A big surprise was the exclusion of forward Wahbi Khazri, who had been the outstanding Tunisian attacker in the group phase and scored one of their two goals.
Bassem Srarfi, Naim Sliti and Karim Aouadhi were also relegated to the bench with Ghaylen Chaalali, Ferjani Sassi, Taha Yassine Khenissi and Anice Badri promoted.
After early yellow cards for Ghanaian John Boye, the first player to be red-carded in the group phase, and Tunisian Dylan Bronn, the first half became a cagey, even affair.
Ghana came close to scoring on 16 minutes when a Kasim header struck the post and Andre Ayew fired the rebound straight at goalkeeper Hassen Mouez.
Andre Ayew was convinced he had put the Black Stars ahead on 41 minutes when he backheeled a cross into the net, but the referee ruled that Thomas Partey handled in the build-up.
Replays showed the ball touching the chin of the Atletico Madrid midfielder rather than a hand and the disallowed goal infuriated the Ghanaians.
Midway through the second half Giresse had second thoughts about the composition of his attack, which was making little impression, and sent on Khazri in place of Badri.
Khazri needed just five minutes to make an impact with his brilliant backheel creating space for Wajdi Kechrida to cross and Khenissi scored with a shot that went in off the near post.
The woodwork foiled Ghana a second time when a Mubarak Wakaso shot from outside the box struck the far post 10 minutes from the end of regular time with Mouez beaten.
In the first minute of stoppage time, the Blacks Stars drew level with an attempted headed clearance by Bedoui looped over Mouez, who had strayed off his line.
Shortly afterward key adviser Firas Guefrech said on Twitter that the president was in “critical condition”.
The announcement came after two suicide attacks in Tunis on security forces killed a policeman and wounded eight people.
Essebsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, came to power in 2014, three years after the Arab Spring uprising toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked revolts in several Arab nations.
Last week, a presidential adviser said that Essebsi had undergone routine medical tests while another said he had suffered from a slight “discomfort”.
A veteran politician, Essebsi served as an adviser to Habib Bourguiba, the father of Tunisia’s independence from France, holding a number of key jobs under him and later under Ben Ali.
Over the years, Essebsi was director general of the national police and interior minister. He later held the defence portfolio before becoming ambassador to France.
After a subsequent posting as Tunisia’s envoy to Germany, he was named foreign minister.
He also served in parliament, holding the speakership in 1990 and 1991.
He became prime minister after the 2011 uprising and organised parliamentary elections later that year.
Essebsi is the founder and chairman of the secularist Nidaa Tounes (Call of Tunis) party.
In April he said he did not plan to stand for re-election in polls due to be held in November this year in order to make way for someone younger.
Presidential elections are scheduled for November 17, after parliamentary elections which have been set for October 6.
Cup holders Nigeria have begun the race towards a successful defence of their Africa U23 title in Tunisia on Wednesday when they take on their Libyan counterparts in a first round, first leg encounter of the qualification series.
Wednesday’s encounter, which kicks off at 3:00 pm Tunisia time (same as in Nigeria), on the artificial turf of the Ben Guerdane Stadium in the city of Ben Guerdane, will see Nigeria’s Head Coach, Imama Amapakabo throw in his best dice for a good result ahead of the return leg in Asaba on Monday.
Amapakabo will work with a good blend of homeboys and overseas-based professionals. Lobi Stars’ trio of John Lazarus, Ugochukwu Anumudu and Ebube Duru are joined by Enyimba’s Dare Olatunji and Stephen Egbe, and Wikki Tourists’ goalie Adamu Abubakar, amongst others.
Former U17 World Cup winners Taiwo Awoniyi, Kelechi Nwakali, Kingsley Michael, Orji Okonkwo, Chidera Ezeh and Samuel Chukwueze are among the Europe–based who teamed up with the delegation in Tunisia.
Victory on Wednesday would pave the way to the final round of qualifiers for the champions, which is due in June.
The Confederation of African Football has appointed Ghanaian officials to take charge of proceedings, with Daniel Laryea as referee. Acheampong Brobbey is the assistant referee 1 while Emmanuel Allou is assistant referee 2 and Adaar Abdul Latif is the fourth official. Amir Osman Mohamed Amid from Sudan is the match commissioner.
Nigeria is the only African country to have won gold, silver and bronze medals of the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament. Gold was the harvest at the Centennial Games in Atlanta, USA, and silver came in Beijing, China in 2008.
The bronze medal won by the Olympic Eagles at the Games in Brazil in 2016 was the only medal won by the entire Team Nigeria at the event.
Africa’s flag-bearers in the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament of Tokyo 2020 will emerge during the 3rd Africa U23 Cup of Nations to hold in Egypt 8th – 22nd November this year.