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Tunisia, Malawi back in contention

Weekend wins in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers for Tunisia and Malawi have thrown the race in Group K wide open.

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After setting the pace in the group, the Zebras now find themselves in a three-horse race with Tunisia and Malawi in the battle for the two slots available in the pool for the 2012 event. From run-away leaders, the Zebras now find themselves looking behind their backs as second-placed Tunisia has reduced the gap to three points.

The reviving Tunisians moved within three points of the Zebras after a 2-1 win over Togo while Malawi sent a loud statement with a 6-2 crushing of Chad. Malawi are third with six points while Togo have two. Chad anchor the log with one point.

Stanley Tshosane should have boarded the plane to Equatorial Guinea on Sunday a worried man.

While his side has made a solid start to the 2012 AFCON campaign, the resurgence of Malawi and former African champions, Tunisia is not a good omen. Tunisia started off slowly but have claimed two victories in the last three matches including a crucial 2-1 win away in Lome on Sunday.

Malawi, who with the Zebras remain unbeaten, posted the qualifiers’ second biggest win, a 6-2 thrashing of bottom-placed Chad. All the teams in Group K have played four matches with four more to go. The Zebras play their first reverse fixture on October 17 against   Tunisia. While the Zebras emerged victors in the first round, it would be a different game in Gaborone.

Tunisia have reached peak form and have shown that they are good travellers after two away wins. They won 3-1 in Ndjamena against Chad before last weekend’s 2-1 win in Togo. Tunisia’s record at home is poor as they lost to Botswana and drew against Malawi. The Zebras have been equal to the task in a group in which they were hardly given chance.

Botswana remains unbeaten with three wins and a draw. Tshosane’s credentials will be put to the test when his charges face the North Africans next month. His ideal preparation would have included a warm-up match against Tunisia’s North African rivals, Egypt.

But the Pharoahs pulled out and instead the Zebras played 2012 AFCON hosts, Equatorial Guinea. Malawi have been impressive in the qualifiers, holding Togo and Tunisia away from home.

Their next assignment is against Togo at home and the Southern African nation is expected to pocket three points. The Zebras dread a loss to Tunisia coupled with a Malawi win in the next match. Such a scenario will see the North Africans draw level with the Zebras on 10 points. If Malawi win against Togo, they will move within a point of the Zebras. The match will be played in Blantrye in March 2011.

Next Group K matches
October 17  Botswana vs Tunisia
Togo vs Chad

International Friendly
October 12  Botswana  2 – 0  E. Guinea

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