Africa Cup of Nations Group B Preview: Tunisia forced to call for striking reinforcements

Champions 11 years ago, Tunisia's Africa Cup of Nations 2015 preparations have been hit by a last-minute striker shortage.

Edem Rjaibi and Ahmed Akaichi have been called as replacements for the injured Fakhreddine Ben Youssef and Saber Khalifa, who both suffered muscle injuries during their side's warm-up friendly against Algeria on Sunday.

The loss of both of their favoured strikers is a huge blow to the North Africans who are one of the tournament favourites.

Akaichi has been rebuilding his reputation in recent years after a tough spell with German second-tier side Ingolstadt, while Rjaibi's only previous international experience is as an unused substitute in friendlies last season, meaning national coach George Leekens has a tough choice ahead of him.

The favourites - Tunisia, Cape Verde

Despite the loss of the strikers that fired them to a place in Equatorial Guinea, Tunisia should have too much quality in their squad for the rest of Group B.

They came through qualification unbeaten in a group that included fellow finalists Senegal and continental powerhouses Egypt.

Cape Verde were the surprise package of the 2013 AFCON where they made it to the quarter-finals.

But nobody should be surprised this time if the tiny island nation make it at least that far this time too with young strikers Ryan Mendes and Ze Luis, who are both participating in the UEFA Champions League, a major threat.

The outsiders - Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo

Zambia have already come unstuck to Cape Verde after they were beaten 2-1 at the Estadio da Varzea to determine who finished top of their qualifying group.

Far from the force they were when they won the 2012 edition of the competition, national coach Honor Janza seems to already have one eye on Chipolopolo's future with three under-20 rookies in his squad for the tournament.

DR Congo may have won the inaugural AFCON tournament but their passage to this year's finals was through the back door as the best third-placed finisher in qualification.

A victory over tournament favourites Ivory Coast in qualifying is proof of their ability to stun any team on their day though.

Star Player - Heldon Ramos (Cape Verde)

The 26-year-old attacking midfielder probably holds the key to Cape Verde's progression to the next round.

He was a revelation at the 2013 edition and has the knack of popping up with key goals when needed, crucial strikes coming in qualifiers against Mozambique and Niger to push Cape Verde over the line.

Crunch match - Tunisia v Cape Verde

As this is both sides' first match of the tournament they will be keen not to slip up and put themselves under pressure to qualify for the quarter-finals.

The historical record suggests Tunisia should walk this game but Cape Verde have a habit of "giant-killing" and have enough fire power to trouble a side who may find it tough up front.


18 January 2015 - Zambia v DR Congo, Ebebiyin / Tunisia v Cape Verde Islands, Ebebiyin 

22 January 2015 - Zambia v Tunisia, Ebebiyin / Cape Verde Islands v DR Congo, Ebebiyin 

26 January 2015 - Cape Verde Islands v Zambia, Ebebiyin / DR Congo v Tunisia, Bata