Tunisia steal show with rotating octopus formation

Tunisia 2 Rwanda 1

Everyone remembers the last time Roger Lemerre took charge of a team for an opening game. At least every Frenchman does, and wishes he did not. Lemerre, now in charge of Tunisia, was manager of France when they lost the first game of the 2002 World Cup to Senegal 1-0.

He has had to start afresh with the north Africans, who were as keen as Lemerre to erase their own unhappy past in the African Nations' Cup. Ten years ago they hosted this tournament and lost, feebly, 2-0 to Mali, and that too signalled their early exit. Despite Joao Elias's equaliser the number of photographers massed behind the Rwandan goal would have made David Beckham blush, such was the way this encounter was expected to go.

But if they did not get what they wanted during the match then they would have filled their boots during the opening ceremony. Nothing if not ambitious, the hosts went for recreating such minor undertakings as the creation of the world and the birth of man, backed by a soundtrack that was possibly discarded in the early stages of production for 2001: A Space Odyssey as too futuristic.

If that was not enough there was also a float that could only be described as a rotating 12-legged octopus - with flowers. Such things are not normally seen on the sets of anything but old Flash Gordon episodes, let alone the streets of Tunis. As the organisers threw the kitchen sink at their hour-long extravaganza, in the country where Hannibal was born, they missed a trick by failing to include any elephants.

Minus pachyderms, they still produced a pièce de résistance to cap it all off. The final touch was an elevating Carthaginian boat that hung in the air and then floated off into the cold night sky, over the Mediterranean and off to who knows where. Possibly a rendezvous with that other lost craft Beagle Two, although the worrying thought occurred that it might come crashing down mid-way through the second half.

Following that was always going to be hard, but hosting the 24th Nations Cup did not seem to deter Tunisia, who played some fluent, attacking and quick football. They did not seem to miss their star right-back, Hatem Trabelsi, who was on the bench. Coveted by Man-chester United last summer, the Ajax defender is now set to join Chelsea this summer.

They proved their initial superiority with 27 minutes gone, as Jaziri scored to delight the highly charged 60,000 crowd, who had filled this stadium hours before the start. From a quick free-kick move the striker drilled his shot into the net from eight yards out.

This was Rwanda's debut in the Nations Cup, but they refused to be overawed, and 13 minutes before the break Elias wrote his name into the tournament's history books with a delightful free-kick from 20 yards out. Tunisia must have wished they had some of those elephants after all and preferably in the wall.

Dos Santos scored Tunisia's second of the match when he headed home from all of one yard out from a 57th-minute free-kick for a foul that brought Abdul Sibomana a red card.

Tunisia 2
Jaziri 27, Santos 57

Rwanda 1
Elias 32

Half-time: 1-1

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada