Tunisians too good for Zambia

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The Independent Online

Tunisia pulled off a major upset when they beat much-fancied Zambia 4-2 in their African Nations' Cup semi-final at King's Park, Durban, yesterday.

The Tunisians, who needed a penalty shoot-out to get past humble Gabon in the quarter-finals, completely outplayed Zambia for the first 60 minutes to open up a 3-0 lead with goals from Abel Sellimi, Zoubeir Beya and Kaies Kodhbane.

When Zambia, the finalists of two years ago, began to come back strongly with a 68th-minute goal from Denis Lota and a string of other chances, the Tunisian defence held out. Abel Sellimi put the game beyond doubt in the 85th minute when he converted a penalty after Mehdi Slimane had been brought down by Elijah Litana.

Hilary Makasa grabbed a consolation goal for Zambia in injury time, but by then it was far too late. Zambia were a shadow of the side who so impressively reached the last four. They drifted through the first 60 minutes. lacking invention, communication and, most importantly, resolve as the tough Tunisian defence comfortably held them at bay.

The Zambians did have two chances, when Lota's shot from just inside the area was well blocked by goalkeeper Chokri El Ouaer and Andrew Tembo stabbed wide from close range. The statistics showed they had greater possession in the first half, but it was the Tunisians who used the ball better and they went ahead after 16 minutes.

Mehdi, a constant menace down the flanks, slid a ball from the right across the goalbox and Abel Sellimi slipped in front of his marker to nudge it past James Phiri in the Zambian goal. Beya made it 2-0 after 30 minutes when he curled a free-kick from outside the area round an out- of-position Phiri.

Tunisia went further ahead two minutes after the interval. A left-footed lob on the turn from Kodhbane had Phiri vainly clawing at air as he tried to scuttle back to his line after saving on the edge of the box.

However, the Zambians, at last stung into action, began to play their way back into the game and after Tembo and Lota had both gone close they reduced the gap when El Ouaer could only parry a shot from the edge of the box and Lota was on hand to score from the rebound. They continued to push hard for a second goal, but the mountain was too big to climb and Abel Sellimi's late penalty settled the tie and ensured Tunisia's progress to Saturday's final.

They will meet the hosts in the final, after South Africa beat a disappointing Ghana side 3-0 in yesterday's other semi- final in Soweto.

John Moshoeu put the South Africans ahead in the 22nd minute and added his second two minutes from the end. Sean Bartlett struck the other goal in the first minute of the second half. It was a bad night for Ghana's two Premiership players: Leeds' Tony Yeboah was well out of touch while Coventry's Nii Lamptey was sent off late in the game.

George Weah, the Milan striker who is the mainstay of the Liberian international team, announced yesterday that he will not captain Liberia again.

Weah, the 1995 Fifa "player of the year", added, however, that he will play for Liberia again. He told the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport that he was upset "with all the problems caused me by [Liberian] Federation officials." He did not elaborate.

"I will play on the Liberian team again. I'm proud to be part of it, and I'll try to earn qualification for the [1998] World Cup along with my team-mates... but I won't be the team captain any more," Weah added.