I'm starting another MBM in four minutes, so no time to hang around. What a frustrating game that was. I'd love to see these teams play on a decent pitch with a decent referee – both seemed capable of some decent stuff, though Tunisia's defence looked a little suspect. I'll remember the match more than anything for the astonishingly abysmal decision-making of English-born official Daniel Bennett, who got pretty much everything wrong all game. And so it was that the score was 1-1, Togo scoring an offside goal and Tunisia equalising with a dubious penalty. Had Tunisia scored with their second dubious penalty in the second half, Bennett would basically have beaten Togo single-handed. The outcome, however, was fair. Togo deserved to go through on this showing, and they have. Another match on this sad sandpit awaits on Sunday.
That's all from me. Thanks, and bye!
It's all over! Togo go through!
90+6 min: The referee makes his final wrong decision, adding but three seconds of extra stoppage time for Togo's lengthy substitution break, and then blows his whistle. That's it!
90+5 min: Togo take up a few more seconds by replacing Adebayor with Dove Wome.
90+4 min: Adebayor is pushed in the back by Abdennour in the penalty area, but he overplays it a bit and obviously no penalty is awarded.
90+4 min: "The referee's wikipedia page says he won the Tunisian lottery today," writes David Goldman. By the time I make it there to check, that has been deleted – but it does say that "Bennett is also known to suffer from selective blindness".
90+2 min: The corner is knocked down by Adebayor – rather foolishly, really – to Ben Youssef again, who needed only to prod the ball in from two yards, but he manages to hit Agassa in the head, and the ball bounces clear.
90 min: There will be five minutes of stoppages, and the first of them sees Ben Youssef run on to a weak defensive header, but Agassa comes out of his goal to save.
89 min: Togo do precisely the opposite substitution to the one Tunisia did a minute ago. Where they brought off a defensive midfielder and brought on a striker, Togo have taken off a forward, Floyd Ayite, and brought on a defensive midfielder, Sadate Ouro-Akoriko.
88 min: Tunisia bring on a big man up front, Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, in place of Traoui. Jonathan Ayite runs down the left and slams a shot over the bar from a silly angle, leaving Adebayor fairly miffed in the centre.
86 min: Floyd Ayite is booked for a foul on Togo's right wing, the ninth caution of the match by my count.
84 min: Togo have nine men back, and will try to do something on the break. Tunisia have eight men in attack. Six minutes and stoppages to come, battle lines drawn.
79 min: Togo deserve to win this match and any other result would be, if not a travesty, certainly an injustice. And the referee needs to be subjected to immediate career-euthanasia.
Justice! Mouelhi hits the post!
This time Mouelhi, whose first penalty went low and left, shoots high and right, and the ball hits the post and bounces clear. Agassa, the keeper, had also got booked, for refusing to retreat to his line and delaying the kick.
Tunisia get another penalty!
77 min: Jonathan Ayite gets booked for dissent, as does Adebayor, who knocked the referee's book out of his hands. Khlifa won the kick, crumpling under the flimsiest contact from Nibombe.
75 min: Togo take off Gakpe and bring on Jonathan Ayite, Floyd's brother.
73 min: I think the officiating in this match has quite possibly been the worst I've ever seen. It's been embarrassing. Daniel Bennett would have got more decisions right had he simply blown his whistle and then asked a blind and deaf man to toss a coin to decide who gets the ball. And his assistants have not been much better. Really, incredibly bad.
71 min: Adebayor is clean through! He decides to take the ball round the keeper, who doesn't touch the ball but does take out the striker. The referee gives … a corner.
70 min: Togo hit the bar! Ayite runs clear on the left and crosses for Adebayor, who rises excellently to head the ball against the bar.
69 min: Turns out Nibombe, booked in that case of mistaken identity, will now miss the quarter-final should Togo qualify.
67 min: We are at that stage where Tunisia are going to have to commit to attack even if it means leaving more holes in their defence. Which, given the number of holes that were already in their defence, should be quite encouraging to Togo.
66 min: Darragi's free-kick, from a yard outside the penalty area, is saved.
64 min: Another abysmal call from the referee, who sees Akakpo catch Msakni's ankles on the edge of the area and promptly books Nibombe, who was the covering defender, nowhere near the ball at the time, and about two feet taller than Akakpo.
63 min: Adebayor does well on the right touchline, and looks up to see two teammates unmarked in the penalty area. He slides the ball towards Ayite, who misjudges the path of the ball and doesn't even muster a shot.
61 min: Neither side is playing terrifically well, but the match officials and the pitch are both having terrible games. Tunisia bring on Zouhaeir Dhaouadi for Kharzi.
58 mins: Another penalty claim, this time Hichri getting caught in possession by Adebayor, before both fall down. The referee is not impressed, and Adebayor certainly made the most of the contact (but there was some contact). Moments later Ayite is played through on the inside right, but delays his shot for so long that Abdennour is able to block. Excellent chance, the second one.
56 min: Gakpe is booked, for connecting his studs with Khlifa's ankle.
52 min: Bossou, a centre-back, is wearing the No9 shirt, so perhaps it's no surprise that he's started to tackle like a centre-forward. For that matter, Adebayor is wearing No4, which perhaps explains the poor finishing that has ruined his one-and-a-half chances thus far.
50 min: Bossou goes to ground to dispossess Darragi, who collapses, well inside the penalty area with the referee five feet away. Replays show that Darragi got to the ball first, Bossou didn't get to it at all, and that should have been another penalty. Wahbi Kharzi is booked for telling the referee that he'd messed up again.
49 min: The pitch really is very poor. It's odd that Fifa would probably sooner submit its chairman's bank accounts to external scrutiny than allow a big match to take place on an artificial pitch, but you are allowed to pour so much sand on top of grass that it essentially becomes a beach. Togo have started this half, as they did the last, on the front foot.
46 min: The second half has begun. Tunisia must score.
The penalty related to a connection between Togo's Dare Nibombe and Tunisia's Walid Hichri, as Tunisia sent in a corner. There was perhaps a little push. Certainly not a big one. It's the type of penalty that can't be discussed without the phrase "You'd have to give 20 penalties every match!" being exclaimed at some point.
45+1 min: ...which is headed away for a throw-in, which doesn't come to anything. And that's it for this half. There have been 24 fouls in the 46 minutes, according to on-screen statistics. Add in the offsides, the penalty and the corners and that's probably a set-piece ever 70 seconds or so. I'm going to procure something caffeinated.
45 min: We'll have just a single minute of stoppage time at the end of the first half. Tunisia have a corner.
43 min: Tunisia curl a corner into the arms of Togo's keeper, who immediately boots the ball towards Oussama Darragi, who reaches it first, gets his shirt pulled and wins a free-kick just outside the other penalty area.
42 min: Since I mentioned the possibility of the game becoming pretty bad, it's been very bad. There was an optimistic penalty claim against Mamah Gaffar, Togo's defender, and otherwise just a lot of not-very-good passing.
38 min: Another offside, this time Kharzi, careering forward in an attempt to reach a curled cross from the left. This game is OK, apparently undecided between fairly good and pretty bad, with too many stoppages. Msakni is responsible for the last of them, fouling Komlan Amewou and getting booked for it.
36 min: The consensus among the commentators is that it was a very weak penalty, the match officials seemingly intent on continuing their 0% record when it comes to major calls in this game. Alaixys Romao shoots just over from 25 yards.
32 min: Nice cake though. Very light. Tunisia still haven't reconsidered that high defensive line, which I fear will be their undoing (again).
GOAL! Togo 1-1 Tunisia (Mouelhi 30, penalty)
I'll just get this out there – when the penalty was awarded I was saying farewell to Guardian staffer Everton Gayle, who leaves us today and had come over with some cake. His timing was not good, but Mouelhi's penalty was – slipped with enormous cool into the bottom left corner, while the keeper stepped the other way.
27 min: Another through-ball to Saber Khlifa, again the referee blows his whistle. This time he's been given offside (again wrongly).
26 min: Tunisia win a free-kick on the left, and spend an age getting everyone up and where they want them, before promptly flipping the ball straight at the keeper.
23 min: Oussama Darragi plays the ball through to Khlifa, but the referee blows his whistle for a perceived foul on Bossou and the move is over. Didn't see it myself, I must say. The Tunisian would have inside the penalty area without a defender in sight but for the official's intervention.
21 min: ...and again! This time Gakpe is released on the right, and he has all the time in the world to weigh up his options before sliding the ball square to Adebayor. It takes an enormous bobble, though, and the shot flies very comfortably wide.
20 min: Togo break out of Tunisia's offside trap yet again. Having missed an offside in the build-up to the goal, however, the linesman evens things up by raising his flag erroneously this time.
17 min: Youssef Msakni cuts in from the left and dribbles the ball across the edge of Togo's penalty area, before producing an incredibly useless shot when excellently well-placed, the ball dribbling into the keeper's arms.
16 min: "We had a sweep going last game when he'd put in his first 'very Abdennour' tackle," writes Phlippa Booth of the bulky Toulouse and Tunisia stopper. "He got through it without a booking, possible the most surprising thing about the game." No booking, but this game hasn't started well for him.
GOAL! Togo 1-0 Tunisia (Gakpe 13)
Togo take the lead! Adebayor is the creator, prodding the ball through Tunisia's dangerously high line – Abdennour, perhaps still groggy from that early head-bashing, was a few yards behind the rest of the defence – and Gakpe runs onto it before beating the keeper with his left foot, rolling the ball across goal and in at the far post. He was, though, a foot or so offside when the ball was played.
11 min: Tunisia attack, for the first time. Msakni pops the ball to Khlifa, whose attempted return flick is collected by the keeper. Moments later Mouelhi is booked for a nasty foul on Mamah Gaffar.
10 min: Gakpe plays in Ayite on the right. First he tries to slam the ball low and hard across goal, but Moez Ben Cherifia in goal blocks it. Ayite gets it back, and prods it to Adebayor, who with enormous nonchalance taps the ball wide both of the keeper and the post, with barely enough pace to roll out of play.
7 min: Togo suddenly find themselves with both Serge Gakpe and Ayite clear of the last defender, Walid Hichri having gone totally to sleep. Gakpe, wide on the left, drills in a low cross, but a defender manages to get in Ayite's way.
4 min: Aymen Abdennour and Floyd Ayite clash heads while competing for a high ball. Ayite isn't bothered; Abdennour rolls around for ages, repeatedly putting his palm to his bonce and then examining it, just to check if his head had started bleeding in the 0.8 seconds since he last did it. At no stage was his head bleeding. He's now fine again.
2 min: Tunisia curl a through-ball over the Togo defence from the right wing, and Kossi Agassa has to come out of his goal pretty smartly to head clear of the onrushing striker, Khlifa.
1 min: They're off! Togo do the honours, and give away a free-kick 14 seconds later.
We've had anthems, huddles, adverts and assorted guff. There is nothing now to look forward to, except the football.
Jonathan Wilson is in Nelspruit, enjoying the action. "Today I smuggled a roast beef sandwich, a tube of Pringles, a banana, an Aero and a bottle of mango juice through the bag search," he reports. "It adds a frisson to getting to an emoty stadium three hours before kick-off." That is most excellent smuggling. I always think I'm clever if I manage to get into a ground with both a bottle of water and the lid for the bottle of water; a beef sandwich is another level entirely.
Actually they were merely moving from one part of the tunnel – a pre-tunnel, if you like – to a more advanced tunnel area. They are now emerging from that one.
The players are emerging from the tunnel even as I type. Action imminent. Gird yer loins, folks.
By way of amuse-bouche, here's Tunisia's moment of the tournament so far, Youssef Msakni's stoppage-time winner against Algeria. More like this, please, but without the 91-minute wait. Thanks.
Jonathan Wilson emails to demonstrate why 72.2 and 72.3 exist. The answer was pretty ruddy obvious, frankly. I have been self-chastised.
72.2 and 72.3 exist in the event of a three- or four-way tie. A
three-way tie happened in Angola in 2010 between Zambia, Cameroon and Gabon; and also in qualifying for last year's tournament between Niger, South Africa and Sierra Leone. Poor South Africa thought goal difference was the decider, played out a goalless draw and celebrated, only for the dread truth to dawn – see group G here.
The teams are in!
The teams are in, and they look rather like this:
Tunisia: Ben Cherifia; Hichri, Abdennour, Chammam, Kharzi; Traoui, Mouelhi, Hammami, Msakni; Darragi, Khlifa.
Togo: Agassa; Akakpo, Nibombe, Bossou, Djene; Gaffar, Amewou, Romao, Gakpe, Ayite; Adebayor.
Referee: Daniel Bennett (South Africa).
This is how things stand. Ivory Coast have lived up to the second part of their name by sealing progress as group winners with a game to spare, which leaves Togo and Tunisia slugging it out for the second and final slot in the quarter-finals, where whoever it is will play Burkina Faso.
You may be wanting to know how the teams will be divided if they finish level. Which is good news, because I want to tell you. According to Article 72 of the regulations of the competition, the answer is:
In case of equality of points between two or more teams, at the conclusion of the group matches, the ranking of the teams shall be established according to the following criteria:
72.1 Greater number of points obtained in the matches between the teams in question;
72.2 The best goal difference in the matches between the teams in question;
72.3 Greater number of goals scored in the matches between the teams concerned;
72.4 Goal difference in all group matches;
72.5 Greatest number of goals scored in all the group matches;
72.6 Fair Play points system taking into account the number of yellow and red cards;
72.7 Drawing of lots by CAF Organising Committee.
Because the only way they can finish level is by drawing, 72.1, 72.2 and 72.3 are not going to come into play (and why 72.2 and 72.3 exist in the first place is beyond me). Next is goal difference, which as the pre-match table suggests favours the Togolese. So Tunisia need to win, and a 100% head-to-head record (in four previous meetings) suggests they may very well do so. Togo – seeking a place in the final eight for the first time in their history – are not about to park any kind of bus, according to their coach, Didier Six:
I don't have a team which plays defensive football, the spirit of my players on the pitch is to win. Yes, mathematically, we need only one point, but the reality of our football is not to be content with that. We'll be going for the win.
There has been a lot of criticism of the pitch at the Mbombela Stadium, which is about 60% sand after the grass was attacked by fungus. Six insists it's not an issue – "Have you been to Lome lately? This pitch is much, much better than the one at the national stadium there" – and it's just as well, as whoever comes out on top today will play their quarter- and, if successful, semi-finals here too.
Finally, for those not watching this on ITV4, I think it would be only fair to share what I've just been treated to on that fine channel: old-fashioned Batman, complete with Eartha Kitt as Catwoman. Amazing. Ludicrous. This is the very episode.
Simon will be here from 4.30pm. In the meantime, here's Jonathan Wilson's blog on Mali's fortunes:
For Mali, this is becoming a habit: win the first group game narrowly, lose to Ghana, do just enough in the third match to get through and set up a quarter-final against the hosts. What they did in Libreville a year ago, when they beat Gabon on penalties, they will have to do again on Saturday as they face a newly enthused South Africa in Durban.
That quarter-final – a year ago to the weekend – was characterised by tears. Tears from the Gabonese for the shattering of their dream as half the government looked on from the stands, and tears from the Mali captain Seydou Keita as he described the crisis in his country. Since then, of course, the situation has deteriorated, with an attempted coup by the army followed by further incursions from Islamist separatists in the north-east and then French intervention. If Monday's reports that the historic library in Timbuktu has been burned are true, that is a devastating blow against the heart of Malian culture.
Keita has become a great spokesman for his country and the Mali national team is fortunate to have such an eloquent speaker as captain. His ghastly familiarity with discussing the war in post-match press conferences keeps his emotions in check these days, but there is no doubt how deeply affected he is by the trouble back home. Nor is there any doubt that the conflict has provided les Aigles with additional motivation and a clear sense of their responsibilities.
Mali had been quietly impressive in beating Niger in their opening game, the 1-0 scoreline – the winner bundled in eight minutes from time after a goalkeeping error – scarcely reflecting their superiority. Against Ghana, though, they had lost 1-0 and, while the coach, Patrice Carteron, was justified in believing the Ghana goalkeeper Fatawu Dauda should have been sent off early, that did not explain his side's flatness.