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Khelifa and Ben Youssef to miss AFCON for Tunisia
Ahmed Akaïchi and Edem Rjaïbi called up to replace the injured forwards
With less than one week before the African Cup of Nations kicks off in Equatorial Guinea, the Tunisian National team has suffered a significant blow to its roster that will leave forwards Saber Khelifa and Fakhreddine Ben Youssef sidelined for the contest due to injuries.
The announcement came following clinical examinations of the players by Tunisia’s medical and training staff, which stated the duo would be unavailable for head coach Georges Leekens.
Following the news, the Belgian coach announced today that Ahmed Akaïchi (Espérance) and Edem Rjaïbi (CA Bizertin) will be called upon to replace Ben Youssef and Khelifa for the Carthage Eagle’s 23-man AFCON squad.
Akaïchi, who will be taking Ben Youssef’s place as the team’s striker, has notched 30 Tunisian league goals and one international goal. Rjaïbi will be tasked with filling Khelifa’s role and has scored 14 goals with CA Bizertin since joining the club in 2011. The 20-year-old attacker has also never made an international appearance.
Both Ben Youssef and Khelifa sustained injuries during a hard-fought friendly against Algeria on Sunday that resulted in a 1-1 draw. During the match, Khelifa was substituted late in the first half because of a muscle injury. Although Ben Youssef was substituted in the 73rd minute, he did not appear to be injured as he left the pitch. It was later reported that the Tunisian striker had aggravated a thigh muscle he had been nursing.
Ben Youssef recently signed a 3-year deal with French club FC Metz and is expected to make his debut for Les Garnets after a 20-day recovery period.
The loss of Tunisia’s top goal-scorers may force Leekens to make last-minute changes to the team’s strategy, which relied on timely goal scoring and protecting narrow leads during the AFCON qualifiers.
The Carthage Eagles are expected to travel to Equatorial Guinea this Wednesday to begin preparations for their opening match against Cape Verde on January 18th.