Layouni bound for Africa’s showpiece tournament – AFCON!

Western Sydney Wanderers forward Amor Layouni is set to feature at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations after Tunisia qualified for the major tournament.

Layouni earned his second start in his fifth appearance for Tunisia, who edged Libya 1-0 on Wednesday (AEDT) to book their place at AFCON, which will be held in the Ivory Coast in January next year.

A revelation since joining the Wanderers in the Isuzu UTE A-League on loan in January with three goals and two assists, he had played his first game since October 2019 after coming off the bench in a 3-0 victory over the same opponents last week.

Image source: Federation Tunisienne de Football

The last time Layouni had started a match for Tunisia was against an Ivory Coast team featuring now-Barcelona star Franck Kessie and former Tottenham full-back Serge Aurier in September 2019.

But he was back in the line-up away in Benghazi, where Tunisia edged Libya 1-0 in AFCON Group J qualifying.

The result left Tunisia unbeaten through four games and on 10 points, a point clear of Equatorial Guinea, having yet to concede a goal. They join defending champions Senegal, South Africa and Morocco in qualifying for the major event.

AFCON was supposed to be played in June and July this year but was postponed to January-February 2024 by the Confederation of African Football because of fears that Ivory Coast’s mid-year rainy season would spoil the tournament.

“We guaranteed qualification to the African Cup of Nations, and Tunisia is the only team in the qualifiers that did not concede any goal so far,” said head coach Jalel Kadri, whose Tunisia lost to the Socceroos at the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup as Australia progressed to the last 16.

“Accordingly we confirmed our technical value in the defense system, and a great work awaits us in the attack to score.”

He added: “We achieved a difficult victory, in a difficult stadium and against a difficult opponent. We did not let the opponent take the initiative and we controlled the course of the match.

“I thank the players and their experience decided the outcome of the match.”

Layouni’s Wanderers, meanwhile, will visit Adelaide United on Friday night.

It is a blockbuster Isuzu UTE A-League contest, pitting second-placed Adelaide against third-paced Western Sydney, with only three points separating the two teams.