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Sports

Give us more time, says Tunisia skipper Haggui

media Tunisia's Karim Haggui (C) argues with referee Alioum Neant of Cameroon … Reuters/Louafi Larbi

Tunisia skipper Karim Haggui is urging his country’s football association not to make hasty changes following the side’s elimination from the Africa Cup of Nations. Ghana beat Tunisia 2-1 on Sunday night in Franceville to advance to the semi-final in Bata where they will play Zambia.

Haggui, who won the title with Tunisia in 2004, called on the FA to keep faith with the coaching staff led by Sami Trabelsi.

“Of course we’re frustrated after the match,” said Haggui. “We’ve got a good group and I think we deserved to go further. I hope the federation will keep this group together so they can achieve their objectives in the short and long term.”

Reviewing the tournament, Haggui added: “There hasn’t been a standout team or teams with huge qualities except for Côte d’Ivoire; All the other teams are at the same level.”

Haggui’s sentiments were echoed by the Tunisia coach.  “The level in Africa is getting closer,” Trabelsi observed. “You’re not seeing just the big nations, you’re seeing nations without so-called traditions doing well.

"They have quality and good players – look at Gabon and Equatorial Guinea who made it to the last eight. Libya did well and Sudan also made it to the quarters.

“They don’t have lots of experience at the Africa Cup of Nations but they are progressing. It’s good for Africa and it is good for this competition.”

Trabelsi, who celebrated his 44th birthday on Saturday, led Tunisia to the Africa Nations Championship, CHAN, last February.

Dossier: Africa Cup of Nations 2012

That tournament – considered to be the baby brother of the Africa Cup of Nations – is open only to teams whose members play football in the domestic leagues of their countries.

 Trabelsi took the nutrients of that squad and supplemented them with players like Haggui who plys his trade in the German Bundesliga outfit Hannover .

The 28-year-old, who has nearly 90 caps to his name, added: “I’ve been with the Tunisia squad since 2003, we may have lost a game but we won a team.”

In the closely fought clash in Franceville, Tunisia levelled through Sabeur Khalifa on the stroke of half time after John Mensah had opened the scoring for Ghana.

The match went into extra-time and 12 minutes into that additional half hour, the contest turned on a goalkeeping blunder.

Aymen Mathlouthi came for a cross from the right, caught the ball but fumbled it into the path of Ghana midfielder André Ayew who showed immense composure to slide it past Mathlouthi as well as two defenders covering the goal line.

After the match Mathlouthi, choking back the tears, said: “It was a shame to go out like that. I’ve accepted my responsibility for the goal and I’ve apologised to my teammates. We have a good group that can go forward. I will try my best to be better for the national team.”

Trabelsi’s only lament after the game was his players’ inability to control their emotions after Ayew had scored Ghana ’s second.

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Aymen Abdennour was sent off moments after the setback for an elbow in the face of the goalscorer.

“The player’s gave their all. I have nothing to reproach them about on that level,” said Trabelsi. “However they should not have lost their heads after the goal. We had 16 or 17 minutes left of extra time.

“Sure, there were tough tackles on us. After 110 minutes of such an intense match, with the stress and concentration, at certain times you do get unhappy and do things you shouldn’t.”

On paper, in the Fifa world rankings, Ghana are more than 30 places above the North Africans. On the field of the Franceville stadium, the difference was not so marked.

Tunisia defender Anis Boussaidi, who went on as a second half substitute in the game against Ghana , said: “We didn’t deserve to lose. We played on the front foot even when we were down to 10 men. And just when we started to believe we could win, we made a mistake and paid for it. But this is football.

“The positives are that we have a good group. We’ve been together for the last six weeks and like the captain said we lost a game but we’ve gained a great team.”

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