Tunisia coach Alain Giresse urged his side to take full advantage of the shock exits of Africa Cup of Nations favourites Egypt and Morocco as they prepare to face Ghana in the last 16.
Despite failing to win a single game in the group phase, Tunisia progressed with Mali and face tricky opposition next in a Ghana side who have been improving with every match.
With hosts Egypt and Morocco out after surprise defeats to South Africa and Benin respectively, there is an opportunity for others to stake their claim for the title.
Giresse recognises the chance that is now open to Tunisia and is prepared to make the most of Ghana’s “weak points” in their quest for a quarter-final spot.
“Egypt and Morocco’s exits are a huge surprise and we will give everything to continue in the tournament,” he told reporters.
“Ghana are a strong and harmonious team. They are complete in most of the positions, but we analysed them well and we can work on their weak points.”
Forward Taha Yassine Khenissi, who scored in Tunisia’s final warm-up game against Burundi but has yet to find the net in the tournament, said: “We face Ghana with one aim, which is winning and qualifying.
“We don’t think about the group matches. You’ll see a fresh face for the national team and all the players are united to qualify the national team.”
Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah, whose side came through the group stage without losing a game, underlined the importance of mental toughness going into the round of 16.
The Black Stars topped Group F after holding Benin and Cameroon to draws and beating Guinea-Bissau, and Appiah warned his players against underestimating Tunisia, who came second in Group E behind Mali.
“The most important thing is to think about Tunisia’s game now,” said Appiah. “We plead to all Ghanaians to keep supporting the team with a positive mindset.
“My team is prepared both mentally and physically for the game on Monday.
“All our minds are on the game against Tunisia because we need to win the game on Monday so that we can think about other opponents.
“Every team in the tournament is well prepared and ready to win the trophy so we will not underrate any opponent we meet in the tournament.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tunisia – Wahbi Khazri
Tunisia have reached the round of 16 despite scoring just two goals at this year’s tournament, one of which was a Wahbi Khazri free-kick, and the Saint-Etienne attacker will be a threat at dead-ball situations against Ghana.
Ghana – Baba Rahman
Chelsea full-back Rahman was in inspired form in the 2-0 win over Guinea-Bissau, providing the assists for Jordan Ayew and Thomas Partey to score and, if he is given space down the left, he can hurt Tunisia.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– It will be the eighth game between Ghana and Tunisia in the Africa Cup of Nations. The Carthage Eagles are the are the Black Stars’ favourite opposition in the tournament, having faced them the most without losing (W6 D1).
– Ghana have been eliminated in seven of their last 11 games in the knockout phase of the Africa Cup of Nations, after qualifying in five of their previous seven.
– Tunisia have been eliminated in their past five knockout games in the Africa Cup of Nations, their last success beyond the group phase being the 2004 final against Morocco (2-1), when they hosted the tournament.