Group B favourites Tunisia took a giant step towards qualifying for the next round with a dramatic late win over a wasteful Zambian side. In the other game, a tournament chock full of draws witnessed another one as Cape Verde and the DRC played out a dour 0-0 stalemate.
Tunisia’s Carthage Eagles, champions in 2004, had the task of taking on Zambia’s Chipolopolo, champions just three years ago. Both sides drew in their first game, thus needing a win badly to place themselves in pole position for qualification.
And it was Tunisia who earned all three points, despite a classy Zambian display that failed to yield the needed results. Profligacy in front if goal meaning they failed to pick up the win and slumped to a disappointing defeat.
A slightly balanced first 45 was edged by the Zambians, showing finesse on the ball and creating numerous opportunities.
Yet the first goal did not come till the 59th minute, Southampton forward Emmanuel Mayuka calmly slotting home after good work by Zambian skipper Rainford Kalaba.
Tunisia kept their cool though, equalising in the 70th minute before captain Yassine Chikhaoui buried the winner mere minutes from time.
Cape Verde and DRC played out what felt like the millionth draw of the tournament in the group’s second game.
Cape Verde was the better side on the balance of play, but failed to net any goal thus consigning both sides to their second consecutive draws.
DR Congo’s famed goalkeeper Muteba Kidiaba made a string of fine saves to keep his side level throughout 90 minutes.
DR Congo’s best opportunity fell to Mabwati on 53 minutes; the powerful forward ramming a shot into the side netting.
It was Cape Verde who came closest to breaking the deadlock though, in what would have been an agonising finale, but Kidiaba palmed away Vaerla’s header, before rising quickly to keep out the rebound.
All spoils were shared then, leaving both sides on two points- Zambia prop up the group with one point, Tunisia on the other side of the spectrum, leading the pack with four points.
Ghana’s Black Stars are back in action on Friday, taking on the might of group leaders Algeria at 1600 GMT.