Tunisia topped their African qualification group, narrowly holding off the DR Congo

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Tunisia World Cup Fixtures, Squad, Group, Guide

Tunisia saw off the Democratic Republic of Congo in two key games over the space of five days and qualified for the 2018 World Cup unbeaten, coming through a preliminary round and then the group phase with six wins from eight games. They had been neck and neck with the fast-improving Congolese before beating them at home and drawing away, despite a change during the campaign, with Polish coach Henryk Kasperczak departing and Nabil Maaloul returning for a second stint in charge.

Related: World Cup TV Schedule

Key Moments in Qualifying 

Feb 2017
Kasperczak leaves after Tunisia limp out against Burkina Faso in the quarter-finals of the African Nations Cup, less than three months after winning the opening two games in their World Cup group.
Sep 2017
Ghailene Chaalali scores the winner just after half-time in a 2-1 home victory over DR Congo.
Sep 2017
Two goals down away to DR Congo, they fight back with two goals in two minutes to force a draw.
Oct 2017
Trailing to a Naby Keita goal in Guinea, Youssef Msakni’s hat-trick turns the game on its head and allows the “Cartage Eagles” to start dreaming of a trip to Russia.

Tunisia World Cup Group

Tunisia are in Group G alongside Belgium, Panama, and England.

Tunisia World Cup Friendlies

Tunisia played against Iran on the 23rd of March and won 1-0. four days later they beat Costa Rica by the same margin. Next on the 28th of May they will play Portugal, before playing Turkey and then Spain on the 1st and 9th of June.

Related: World Cup Friendlies

Tunisia World Cup Fixtures

Tunisia wil open their World Cup account against England on the 18th of June. Kevin De Bruyne and Belgium follow five days later, and Panama then five days later.

Related: World Cup Fixtures

The Coach 

Nabil Maaloul, age 55 (25.12.62)
Appointed in March 2017 on a three-year contract, he is in his second spell as national coach, having quit during the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign. Assistant to Roger Lemerre when Tunisia last appeared at the World Cup, in Germany in 2006, he was his country’s youngest player at the 1988 Olympics.

Second Spell: Maaloul is in his second spell as national coach (Getty Images)

The Players
Stars
Youssef Msakni is the team’s creative force. His decision to play in Qatar, for Al Duhail, rather than Europe might have made him wealthy but has denied his talents a wider stage. He has recently suffered a serious knee injury though, which means he will miss the tournament.
Stalwarts
Keeper Aymen Mathlouthi, known better as Balbouli, often rescues a plodding defence. Ali Maaloul’s runs down the left are key, while Naim Sliti and Ferjani Sassi are stout midfield workers. Wahbi Khazri is a set-piece specialist.
Missing
Defender Aymen Abdennour sat out the last four qualifiers with a hamstring injury.
Debuts
French-born, Belgian-based centre-back Dylan Bronn could break through in the next few months.

Related: World Cup Stadiums

Tunisia World Cup Squad

Preliminary World Cup Squad – 

Goalkeepers – Moez Ben Cherifia, Farouk Ben Mustapha, Aymen Mathlouthi

Defenders – Aymen Abdennour, Syam Ben Youssef, Yohan Benalouane, Dylan Bronn, Oussama Haddadi, Yassine Meriah, Al Maaloul, Hamdi Nagguez

Midfielders – Karim Aouadhi, Mohamed Amine Ben Amor, Ahmed Khalil, Said-Eddine Khaoui, Wahbi Khazri, Ferjani Sassi, Ellyes Skhiri, Naim Sliti

Forwards – Anice Badri, Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, Taha yassine Khenissi, Youssef Msakni

Tunisia World Cup Injuries

Arguably Tunisia’s best player, Youssef Msakni has suffered an injury to his knee which means he will miss the tournament. A huge loss.

Talent: Msakni is the creative player in the team (Getty Images)

The Unanswered Questions

Is there enough experience in the current team?
There are only seven members of the squad who play for teams in Europe and, although club football in Tunisia is among the strongest on the African continent, the lack of depth is a major concern for coach Nabil Maaloul.

Will Maaloul keep his job?
It is not uncommon for local coaches to be dismissed and replaced by high-profile foreign imports in the search for a Midas touch in the build-up to a World Cup.

Tempted: Ben Yedder wants to play for France but could play for Tunisia as his parents were born there (Getty Images)

Do they have the requisite ambition?
Qualifying is often the zenith of ambition for countries such as Tunisia and they are happy just to be along for the ride. Tunisia were the first African country to win a World Cup finals game, beating Mexico in Rosario in 1978 on their debut, but in 11 ties since, they have drawn four and lost seven.

Will Wissam Ben Yedder be tempted to switch nationality?
The French-born, 27-year-old Sevilla striker has been one of the standout players in this season’s Champions League in Europe and he has already reaffirmed his desire to make the France team. But although previously capped at under-21 level, his chances of going to the World Cup with Les Bleus are slim, meaning he might finally give in to Tunisia’s frequent pleas to come and play for them, given that his parents are both from the country.

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