Togo, Tunisia in winner-takes-all showdown
He probably wasn't aware of it at the time, but substitute Dove Wome's goal in the third minute of injury time in Togo's 2-0 win over Algeria could prove priceless.
Togo take on Tunisia on Wednesday in a winner-takes-all Africa Cup of Nations Group D encounter.
With Ivory Coast, playing already-eliminated Algeria simultaneously in Rustenburg, already assured of top spot, the Nelspruit game will determine who joins the Elephants in the quarter-finals.
Togo and Tunisia are tied on three points, but Wome's goal helped give the Togolese the upper hand on goal difference, one of the criteria to split the teams in the event of a tie.
That means coach Didier Six's side will go through at the expense of the 2004 champions should Tuesday's game end in stalemate, with Tunisia joining fellow north Africans Morocco and Algeria on the Nations Cup scrapheap.
Although one point will suffice, Six insisted his team would be going all out to secure all three.
"I don't have a team which plays defensive football, the spirit of my players on the pitch is to win. Yes, mathematically, we need only one point, but the reality of our football is not to be content with that. We'll be going for the win."
Six marvelled that the little west African nation were still in contention for a quarter-finals place after their opening 2-1 loss to Ivory Coast and the victory over Algeria.
"This is an extraordinary day for Togo. We must not hide from the reality that this is the group of death, and now we have a chance to progress on Tuesday."
The inexperienced French coach knows his team captained by Tottenham striker Emmanuel Adebayor will have their work cut out to contain Tunisia.
"The Tunisians have solid experience, they've been to many Nations Cups. We'll do our best to succeed, but it's going to be hard."
Tunisia's not-so-secret weapon is their talented midfielder Youssef Msakni, who kept his country in contention for a ticket to the last eight when scoring the 90th-minute winner over Algeria.
Asked at a press conference how he planned to deal with Msakni's impact, Six commented: "It's not just about focusing on one player like Msakni. All teams have players to watch out for -- we've got Adebayor. Tunisia will want to stop him, he's dangerous, like Msakni."
The sandy pitch at Nelspruit's Mbombela Stadium has come in for intense criticism, but the Togo coach brushed off any suggestions that it could be a factor.
"Have you been to (Togo capital) Lome lately?" he asked the assembled media.
"Just look at the pitch in Lome -- this is much much better than the one at the national stadium there."
He reported all his squad in good shape, although Wome picked up a knock in the Algeria game. However, he should be fit to play if picked.
Tunisia, swept aside 3-0 in their second game by Ivory Coast, will once again have to cope with the absence of key striker Issam Jemaa, out of the tournament with a knee injury sustained against Algeria.
Coach Samir Trabelsi refused to be too downhearted by the Ivorian defeat.
"The result may mean we played badly, but I believe we played better in the second half. We paid for our mistakes and failed to take our chances.
"It's not over yet, there is still a game to go. We hope to qualify, we have to win our last game."
Whichever side finishes runners-up in Group D will cross swords with the winners of Group C in Nelspruit Sunday.
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