Tunisia topped their African qualification group, narrowly holding off the DR Congo
Tunisia World Cup Fixtures, Squad, Group, Guide
Tunisia vs Belgium (23rd June) Match Report
Tunisia Starting XI: 1 Farouk Ben Mustapha, 2 Syam Ben Youssef (3 Yohan Benalouane 41), 4 Yassine Meriah, 7 Saif Khaoui, 8 Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, 9 Anice Badri, 10 Wahbi Khazri, 11 Dylan Bronn (21 Hamdi Naguez 24), 12 Ali Maaloul, 13 Ferjani Sassi (23 Naim Sliti 60), 17 Ellyes Skhiri
Belgium Starting XI: 1 Thibaut Courtois, 2 Toby Alderweirald, 5 Jan Vertonghen, 6 Axel Witsel, 7 Kevin De Bruyne, 9 Romelu Lukaku (8 Marouane Fellaini 59), 10 Eden Hazard (21 Michy Batshuayi 68), 11 Yannick Carrasco, 14 Dries Mertens (17 Youri Tielemans 86), 15 Thomas Meunier, 20 Dedryck Boyata
Belgium 5 Tunisia 2
Belgium: Hazard 6, 51, Lukaku 16, 45+3, Batshuayi 90
Tunisia: Bronn 17, Khazri 90+3
Belgium reached the knockout stage in style, ripping through a fragile Tunisia defence thanks to goals from Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Michi Batshuayi.
Tunisia lost two defenders to injury in the first half and left plenty of space for Belgium to exploit as they tried to get back in the game. Substitute Batshuayi saw three chances cleared off the line before scoring Belgium’s fifth goal.
Matter of fact
For the first time in World Cup history, the first 27 games of the tournament all featured goals.
Romelu Lukaku, with four goals, became Belgium’s top scorer at a World Cup but was taken off after an hour before he had a chance to complete his hat-trick. His departure prompted speculation that he might be rested for the final group game against England.
Possession (%): 52.48
Goal attempts: 25/15
Attempts on target: 8/6
Pass accuracy (%): 81/79
Distance covered (km): 104/102
Tunisia vs England (18th June) Match Report
In their first game of the tournament, Tunisia face England and are expected to frustrate them. Recently they drew 1-1 with Spain so they are capable. Match preview here.
Tunisia Starting XI: 22 Mouez Hassen (1 Farouk Ben Mustapha 16),2 Syam Ben Youssef, 4 Yassine Meriah, 8 Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, 9 Anice Badri, 10 Wahbi Khazri (19 Saber Khalifa 85), 11 Dylan Bronn, 12 Ali Maaloul, 13 Ferjani Sassi, 17 Ellyes Skhiri, 23 Naim Sliti (Mohamed Ben Amor 74)
England Starting XI: 1 Jordan Pickford, 2 Kyle Walker, 5 John Stones, 6 Harry Maguire, 7 Jesse Lingard (4 Eric Dier 90+3), 8 Jordan Henderson, 9 Harry Kane, 10 Raheem Sterling (19 Marcus Rashford 68), 12 Kieran Trippier, 18 Ashley Young, 20 Dele Alli (21 Ruben Loftus-Cheek 80)
Tunisia 1 England 2
Tunisia: Sassi 35pen
England: Kane 11, 90+1
An injury-time header from Harry Kane gave England an opening-game victory that had looked to be slipping away from them after Tunisia had dug deep to defend a point.
England made a confident, energetic start, taking an early lead through Kane with another header from a corner. But poor finishing and uncertain defending allowed Tunisia back into the contest via a debatable penalty.
There was less intensity in the second half, which suited Tunisia in their search for a point. But England were patient enough to keep plugging away and late substitutions helped to engineer the corner from which Kane snatched the winner.
Tunisia’s penalty award following Kyle Walker’s foul was cleared by VAR, but holding fouls on Harry Kane, when the centre-forward was dragged to the ground at two subsequent corners, were ignored by the officials. But Kane was left alone in second-half stoppage time to head the winning goal.
Possession (%): 40/60
Goal attempts: 6/17
Attempts on target: 3/7
Pass accuracy (%): 80/90
Distance covered (km): 103/105
Tunisia World Cup 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.
Key Moments in Qualifying
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.
Ghailene Chaalali scores the winner just after half-time in a 2-1 home victory over DR Congo.
Two goals down away to DR Congo, they fight back with two goals in two minutes to force a draw.
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 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. Two draws followed against Portugal and Turkey, both 2-2. Their final matchup was against Spain and they lost 1-0.
- 23rd March – Iran (won 1-0)
- 27th March – Costa Rica (won 1-0)
- 28th May – Portugal (drew 2-2)
- 1st June – Turkey (drew 2-2)
- 9th June – Spain (lost 1-0)
Tunisia World Cup Fixtures
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.
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.
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.
Defender Aymen Abdennour sat out the last four qualifiers with a hamstring injury.
French-born, Belgian-based centre-back Dylan Bronn could break through in the next few months.
Tunisia World Cup Squad
Final 23-man squad –
GOALKEEPERS: Farouk Ben Mustapha (Al Shabab), Moez Hassen (Chateauroux), Aymen Mathlouthi (Al Baten).
DEFENDERS: Rami Bedoui (Etoile du Sahel), Yohan Benalouane (Leicester), Syam Ben Youssef (Kasimpasa), Dylan Bronn (Gent), Oussama Haddadi (Dijon), Ali Maaloul (Al Ahly), Yassine Meriah (CS Sfaxien), Hamdi Nagguez (Zamalek).
MIDFIELDERS: Anice Badri (Esperance), Mohamed Amine Ben Amor (Al Ahli Riyadh), Ghaylene Chaalali (Esperance), Ahmed Khalil (Club Africain), Saifeddine Khaoui (Troyes), Ferjani Sassi (Al Nasr), Ellyes Skhiri (Montpellier), Naim Sliti (Dijon), Bassem Srarfi (Nice).
FORWARDS: Fakhreddine Ben Youssef (Al Ittifaq), Saber Khalifa (Club Africain), Wahbi Khazri (Rennes).
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.
Moez Hassen has also been injured in the first game against England.
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.
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 as he has been named as a reserve. He could have gone to the World Cup easily with Tunisia as both his parents are from there.
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