Tunisia kept up an impressive run of recent African Nations Cup quarter-final appearances as they defeated Zimbabwe 4-2 in Libreville on Monday to ensure second place in Group B.
Tunisia, who finished behind Senegal, now stay in the Gabonese capital to meet Burkina Faso on Saturday in the first of the quarter-final encounters.
It is the fifth time in the last seven tournaments that Tunisia have advanced past the first round. The north Africans are making a 13th successive tournament appearance.
They needed just a draw to ensure their progress but were of no mind to sit back and applied an immediate press on the Zimbabweans, pinning them back and finding the net after just 10 minutes. A corner was cleared off the knee of a Zimbabwe defender but fell perfectly for the on-rushing Naim Sliti to blast home from outside the penalty area.
The lead was doubled 12 minutes later as Tunisia’s key playmaker Youssef Msakni showed a full array of skills before burying the ball.
It was 3-0 in the 36th minute as Yassine Khenessi slipped behind the opposing defence and slid home the ball to extend the lead.
Zimbabwe’s Knowledge Musona then cleverly cut his way past two defenders before pulling a goal back in the 42nd minute.
But any glimmer of home that might have engendered was quickly snuffed out as Costa Nhamoinesu pulled back on Sliti and gave away a penalty. The referee, Denis Dembele of the Ivory Coast, at first turned down the Tunisian appeals but then changed his mind on the advice of his assistant.
Sunderland winger Wahbi Khazri converted to make it 4-1 just before the break.
After the break, Zimbabwe brought on striker Tendai Ndoro and he took just 13 minutes to make his mark, finishing off a swift passing movement to score a second and again reduce the deficit.
Khnessi hit the post with a diving header and Msakni had a point blank header saved by Tatenda Mkuruva as Tunisia were denied a chance to increase their tally.