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Sports

Tunisians to honour Port Said victims at start of Ghana match

media Riot police guard Al Ahli soccer players as they flee Port Said Stadium …

Tunisia want to wear black armbands as a tribute to the dead at a football match in Port Said, Egypt, this week, coach Sami Trabelsi. After the Arab Spring solidarity, they face a hard match with Ghana but they think they can win.

Tunisia was the last nation to win the Africa Cup of Nations before the Egyptians annexed the trophy. 

The Carthage Eagles took the crown in 2004 when the tournament was staged in Tunisia . After that it was all Pharoahs as they triumphed in Egypt in 2006, Ghana in 2008 and Angola in 2010. 

Events in Egypt have cast a pall over African football and organisers hope the quarter-finals will go some way to restoring a positive image of the game on the continent. 

The Tunisians have asked the Confederation of African Football if they can wear black armbands on their jerseys on Sunday to pay homage to the 74 people who died in the violence at Port Said. 

“We have good relations with the Egyptians,” says Tunisia coach Sami Trabelsi of the request. “We are brothers. We are the same people. We are Mulims. It is a little thing that we can do for our brothers, our friends, our family in Egypt. I think we must do this.” 

Respect will evidently be Sunday’s word of the day. 

After paying their respects to the victims in Egypt, Tunisia will have to pay respect to their adversaries, Ghana, in Franceville. 

Dossier: Africa Cup of Nations 2012

The west Africans were undone by Egypt in the final two years ago in Luanda. But they went on to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup in South Africa and appear the logical choice as champions. Trabelsi, who in his playing career was a tough uncompromising defender, demurs.

“We have the quality to beat them,” he says. “I don’t think the Ghana players are from another planet. They have one heart, not two. It is a football match. And we think that when we give the best of ourselves that we can beat any team.”

Trabelsi led Tunisia to the African Nations championship (Chan) in Sudan last February. He said that victorious campaign had instilled a winning mentality in the squad. 

But while the Chan is only open to squads with members playing in the domestic league of their countries, the Cup of Nations allows squads whose footballers are plying their trade around the world to take part. 

“I think it was a good thing to have won the Chan,” he added. “But here at the Cup of Nations, it’s a different quality because there are teams with players who play in Europe.  

“In Tunisia we have got a good combination between our local players and those who play outside the country. And that’s a good thing because the local players have more experience of what it is like to play in Africa .” 

Dossier: Revolution in Egypt

But whether they play in Tunisia or outside the country, there’s confidence coursing through the squad.

Defender Karim Haggui, turns out for VfB Stuttgart in the German Bundesliga. He says that, although Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana were the main pre-tournament favourites, Tunisia shouldn’t have been discounted. 

“ Tunisia is a big football nation. We’ve always shown that we have experience. We’ve always been around at the business end of this tournament. 

“Now for the match against Ghana I think everything is possible. The levels between the teams is quite close and each team is capable of going to the next round. We certainly have the game and mentality to beat Ghana. We are Tunisia. We won the Chan, we’ve won the Cup of Nations, we’ve been in the final three times. 

“Even if that’s in the past, we’re Tunisia. I think we can win.”

Anis Boussaidi echoes his team mate’s confidence.

“I think Ghana are better now than they were two years ago," he comments. "They are a big team with big players but we in Tunisia are a big team with big players. We have quality in our team and the belief that we can win.” 

Dossier: Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution

Tunisia emerged from Group C second behind Gabon while Ghana won Group D following two wins and a draw. 

But after the pool stages, the competition is in the knockout stages, which brings the possibility of extra time and a penalty shoot out. 

“It’s now a cup game," Boussaidi adds. "We have to play 200 per cent to reach the next round and go further. When Tunisia won in 2004 it was a great day for all the Tunisian people. I feel we can do that again. I think after eight years it’s time to make them happy again.”

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