28 January 2013

North Africa: Maghreb Hopes Rest On Nation

Rustenburg — With Morocco and Algeria out of the African Cup of Nations, the Carthage Eagles are left to carry the Maghreb banner.

Things have gotten grim for Maghreb teams at the 2013 African Cup of Nations in South Africa.

The only side still standing - Tunisia - still hope to reach the second round, despite their 3-0 loss to Cote d'Ivoire on Saturday.

Morocco drew 2-2 with CAN hosts South Africa on Sunday (January 27th) in Durban, but the tie wan not enough to keep them alive.

Algeria also ended their CAN campaign, after falling 2-0 to Togo. The Greens suffered a shutout defeat by Tunisia last Tuesday

"I'm very sad because I didn't help my team score a win," Islam Slimani said after the Saturday match.

"I'm very sorry for our fans who endured the burden of travel from Algeria to South Africa to support us," the 24-year-old striker said.

Greens coach Vahid Halilhodzic was frank in his post-game assessment. "It's a real shame," he said. "I can't but hold myself responsible for our elimination from the championship, and I won't blame any player."

"We were just unlucky, and our players' lack of experience has affected us a lot," he added.

Djamel Mesbah, who plays for Italian Serie A side Parma FC, said that the elimination was expected.

"We've missed many players who have experience on this level, and their absence has affected us a lot," the defender added.

For his part, Valencia CF midfielder Sofiane Feghouli wished luck to the Tunisians. The 23-year-old expressed his sorrow for wasting the chance to represent the Maghreb.

Fans who attended the match were shocked by the exit of Les Fennecs. Some of them even cried.

Other Algerians vented their anger on team officials, players and the coaching staff before leaving the stadium with broken hearts.

Algeria still have a match in the championship. It will be played Wednesday (January 30th) against Ivory Coast, who qualified to the second round by beating Tunisia 3-0 Saturday in Rustenburg.

Although the Tunisians sought a win or at least a draw, they couldn't keep up with the fast pace of play.

After all, the Carthage Eagles were up against one of the toughest teams in Africa.

"We tried to stop this strong team, but they seemed to be better than us in many aspects, especially the physical side," striker Saber Khelifa said.

"We've been suffering from that for a while. However, we'll try to fix these mistakes in our next match against Togo," the Évian Thonon Gaillard FC player added.

Tunisia coach Sami Trabelsi was sad for his team's loss. "Of course, we can't accept such a defeat," he said.

"However, we still have another chance to qualify to the second round. We still have a match that we'll try to win," he said.

The last chance for a Maghreb side to advance is on Wednesday, when Tunisia play Togo.

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