Rustenburg — Even as Tunisian players relish their 1-0 victory over Algeria this week in South Africa, they are filled with praise for their Maghreb neighbours.
"We've scored a golden win, especially as it was against the strong Algerian team," defender Billel Ifa said about the 2013 CAN Group D opener played Tuesday (January 22nd) in Rustenburg.
Ifa, who did not play in his regular position, said he struggled during the Maghreb derby, especially as he faced the challenge of stopping Algeria's Foued Kadir. "Yet, I finished the match without making any mistakes," he said.
"The match against Algeria was tough in all respects, and we didn't see anything related to football in it, except for being a very physical match," forward Zouheir Dhaouadi told Magharebia.
The Carthage Eagles had faced a lot of pressure. "However, we compensated that with our physical superiority," he said.
"The Algerian team has good players and they deserve better. I wish them good luck," Dhaouadi added.
The happiest man at the end of the match was Tunisia coach Sami Trabelsi,
"It was very tough for us. However, we had a strong will and resolve, and managed to decide the match in our favour at the right time. I hope to continue like this in the next two matches," he said. Tunisia face Ivory Coast on Saturday and play their last first-round match against Togo on January 29th.
The Greens are also looking ahead to next round.
"I congratulate the Tunisians for their win," Algeria's Rafik Halliche said. "We're still holding onto hopes for the second round," the defender said.
"The match against Tunisia was going in our favour given our domination throughout most of the match and our passing up of several scoring opportunities," Halliche told Magharebia. "They knew how to take advantage of our lax in the last minutes and scored a killer goal."
While he was upset with Algeria's loss to Tunisia, Halliche was optimistic about the Greens' chances in the Togo and Ivory Coast matches.
"Everything is possible in football, and we have to believe in our capabilities and in the possibility of qualifying to the second round. We shouldn't be morally affected, and we have to continue to work for our fans," he added.
Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic also told the team to forget about the last performance and focus on the next two matches, Halliche noted.
"My teammates and I can overcome this loss to Tunisia," he said Halliche is one of the few players in the current squad who played in the 2010 African Cup of Nations in Angola.
Halliche recalled the Greens' 2010 campaign.
"When we lost 3-0 to Malawi, many started to question our abilities and expected us to be eliminated from the first round," he said. "However, we knew how to return to positive results and qualified for the second round and then the semi-finals."
"We'll try to do that again this year in South Africa."