220120 Tunisia
Tunisian players attend a training session at the Limbe Centenary Stadium, Cameroon, on January 19, 2022, on the eve of the African Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between Tunisia and Gambia. Image Credit: AFP

Tunis: Tunisia’s preparations for their final Africa Cup of Nations group match against Gambia were thrown into disarray after 12 players in the 28-man squad contracted COVID-19, the country’s football federation said Wednesday.

Key player Wahbi Khazri is among the players to test positive.

“This evening (Wednesday) the players took part in a training session with 16 players present and the rest absent due to COVID-19 contamination,” the federation said on its Facebook page.

The federation also said: “Tuesday, the tests revealed the contamination of Ali Maaloul, Aymen Dahmen, Ghailene Chaalali, Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane, Wahbi Khazri, Ali Jemal and Mohamed Amine Ben Hmida who have been isolated from the group.”

Right-back Mohamed Drager has though recovered from the virus and Tunisia are hoping that five other players, positive since the start of the tournament, will test negative before Thursday’s game.

Tunisia, the 2004 winners, need to at least draw their final Group F match to be sure of qualification for the last 16.

The Carthage Eagles bounced back from their controversial opening 1-0 loss to Mali, when the referee blew the final whistle early, by thrashing Mauritania 4-0 in their second game.