Tunisia cruised into the knockout rounds of the Africa Cup of Nations by thrashing Group B’s rock-bottom Zimbabwe 4-2.
Henryk Kasperczak’s side had put their destiny into their own hands by beating Algeria last time out and completed the job in emphatic fashion in Libreville.
Naim Sliti’s deflected shot put Tunisia into a deserved, if fortuitous, lead before Youssef Msakni and Yassine Khenissi put the game beyond Zimbabwe with well-crafted efforts.
A thrilling first half still had time for a strike back for Zimbabwe through Knowledge Musona before Wahbi Khazri’s penalty restored Tunisia’s three-goal lead.
3 – Youssef Msakni has scored in each of his three AFCON games played at the stade d’Angondjé (2 in 2012, 1 in 2017). Favourite.
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) January 23, 2017
Half-time substitute Tendai Ndoro lit up the second half by finishing off a well-executed team goal to make the scoreline more respectable for Zimbabwe.
Group A winners Burkina Faso await Tunisia in the second round – a repeat of a second-round contest in 1998 that the West Africans’ won on penalties.
Though they needed just a point, Tunisia were ruthless in the first half with a clinical attacking display to make their place in the next round safe.
Khazri and Khenissi were constant menaces from out wide, but central midfielder Sliti struck first in the ninth minute, his shot from a cleared corner ricocheting beyond a helpless Tatenda Mukuruva in Zimbabwe’s goal.
The 21-year-old was similarly stranded as Msakni played a neat one-two with Sliti to beat him at the near post before Khenissi latched onto Hamdi Naguez’s diagonal pass to finish sharply on the turn.
Musona gave Zimbabwe – needing a victory, as well as a failure to win from Algeria against Senegal – a glimmer of hope when he flicked the ball over two defenders and drilled into the net.
Though that hope was dimmed when Khazri converted from the spot just two minutes later, Ndoro pulled them back again with a delightful goal in the 58th minute.
Khama Billiat’s powerful drive through midfield put Tunisia on the back foot and Musona’s first-time touch into Ndoro allowed him to run clear and prod home.
But the task to come back was beyond Zimbabwe and Tunisia threatened to add to their total as they looked to tune up ahead of a clash against a Burkinabe side that they have never beaten in competitive action.
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