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Africa: Africa Cup of Nations
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Burkina Faso
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AFCON updates:
Tapsoba and Burkina Faso send Skhiri and Tunisia home, Choupo-Moting advances

By Peter Vice   @ViceytheSS

Thanks in large part due to a stalwart performance from Bayer 04 Leverkusen central defender Edmond Tapsoba and the Stallions of Burkina Faso are through to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Semi-finals. 

Just like in the 2017 tournament, the Burkinabé's managed to pull off the upset over Tunisia in the quarterfinal round. As a result, 1. FC Köln midfielder Ellyes Skhiri will be headed back to Germany. 

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon are also through to the semis following a 2-0 defeat of Gambia. 
Edmond Tapsoba.
Edmond Tapsoba.Photo: GEPA Pictures/Sven Sonntag
The Stallions of Burkina Faso faced a tough test on Saturday evening at the Roumdé Adija Stadium in Garoua on Saturday afternoon. Opponents Tunisia widely regarded to be the favorites in the coming quarterfinal matchup. Moreover, many of the Burkinabé players surely troubled by political events in their homeland. An military coup d'état just five days ago left matters highly unstable on the streets of Ouagadougou.

Head coach Kamou Malo fielded an XI that curiously did not feature Aston Villa star Bertrand Traoré. Twenty-two-year old striker Cheick Djibril Outtara of Moroccan club RS Berkane spearheaded a 4-2-3-1 in his first start of the tournament. Tunisian trainer Mondher Kebaier once again fielded a 4-3-3 anchored by Köln central midfielder Ellyes Skhiri.

Both teams bided their time during the opening 25 minutes, though the Burkianbé's impressively held on to most of the ball possession. There were also many stoppages and injury timeouts. Stallion winger Cyrille Bayala got the first quality effort on target near the half hour mark. Leverkusen defender Tapsoba had a scary moment in front of goal in the 36th, when a miscommunication on a back pass with the keeper nearly resulted in a Seifeddine Jaziri goal.

It would be a defensive/goalkeeping error on Tunisia's behalf that would end up allowing the Burkinabé's to score what proved the game-winning-goal. Dango Outtara--a 19-year-old Lorient academy product--was played in well at 45+2, but was able to maneuver past two defenders far too easily. Tunisian keeper Ben Said also did a poor job handling the finish. Former SC Paderborn 07 and SC Freiburg defender Mohamed Dräger was among those who did not cut a good figure.

The two sides then traded attacking waves during what was a very entertaining start to the second half. Bayala got another look in shortly after the restart, but couldn't quite locate the finish. Wahbi Khazri found himself just a bit too late to meet a Naim Sliti cross in the 57th. Skhiri, who had been somewhat disappointingly ineffective on the day would be subbed off in the 84th. One minute prior to that, the West Africans found themselves reduced to ten-men went goal-scorer Outtara was sent off on a straight red.

At this point, Tapsoba atoned for his earlier mistake and an overall mediocre day by organizing the defensive ranks and keeping the Tunisians out of the box with a pair of excellent clearances. Functioning remarkably well as a unit, the Stallions absorbed the Carthaginian press to hold onto their lead through a tense finish to the game. The Burkinabés are through to the AFCON semis for the fourth time in their history. They most recently made the semis in 2017 and last reached the final in 2013.

In other Bundesliga-related AFCON news, the Indomitable Lions sent the Cinderella Gambians home with a 2-0 defeat earlier in the day at the Japoma Stadium in Douala. Bielefed native Baboucarr Gaye once again started in goal for the underdog "Scopions". His team unable to muster much offensively, Gaye eventually conceded a pair of goals in the second half. Bayern's Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting neither started nor appeared as a sub off the bench in the victory.

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