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

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Tunisia World Cup Fixtures, Squad, Group, Guide

Tunisia have been eliminated from the 2018 World Cup.


Tunisia vs Panama (28th June) 

Match preview here. 

Tunisia Starting XI: 16 Aymen Mathlouthi, 4 Yassine Meriah, 5 Oussama Haddadi, 6 Rami Bedoui, 8 Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, 10 Wahbi Khazri (18 Bassem Srarfi 89), 13 Ferjani Sassi (9 Anice Badri 46), 17 Ellyes Skhiri, 20 Ghailene Chaaleli, 21 Hamdi Nagguez, 23 Naim Sliti (15 Ahmed Khalil 77)

Panama Starting XI: 1 Jaime Penedo, 4 Fidel Escobar, 5 Ramon Torres (18 Luis Tejada 56), 6 Gabriel Gomez, 8 Edgar Barcenas, 9 Gabriel Torres (3 Harold Cummings 46), 13 Adolfo Machado, 17 Luis Ovalle, 19 Ricardo Avila (16 Abdiel Arroyo 81), 20 Anibal Godoy, 21 Jose Rodriguez

Saransk

Panama 1 Tunisia 2

Scorers

Panama: Meriah 33og

Tunisia: F Ben Youssef 51, Khazri 66

Match overview

Tunisia cam efrom behind to secure their first World Cup victory for 40 years in the dead-rubber game between Group G’s already-eliminated teams.

Jose Rodriguez gave Panama a surprise early lead when his shot pinballed off Tunisia centre-back Yassino Meriah and into the net.  

But Tunisia, inspired by Wahbi Khazri, fought back. Khazri set up Fakhreddine Ben Youssef for the equaliser and then scored a deserved winner himself.

Matter of fact

Tunisia’s victory was only their second World Cup win and their first since 1978. 

Talking point

Panama were the oldest squad in the tournament and, aside from the stroke of luck for their goal, struggled to trouble Tunisia’s defence.

Stats

Panama/Tunisia

Possession (%): 36/64

Goal attempts: 9/15

Attempts on target: 4/4

Corners: 0/6

Fouls: 18/19

Pass accuracy (%): 77/87

Distance covered (km): 102/107


Tunisia vs Belgium (23rd June) Match Report

Match preview here. 

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

Moscow Spartak

Belgium  5 Tunisia 2

Scorers

Belgium: Hazard 6, 51, Lukaku 16, 45+3, Batshuayi 90

Tunisia: Bronn 17, Khazri 90+3

Match overview

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.

Lukaku scores Belgium’s third goal against Tunisia (Getty Images)

Matter of fact

For the first time in World Cup history, the first 27 games of the tournament all featured goals.

Talking point

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.  

Stats

Belgium/Tunisia

Possession (%): 52.48

Goal attempts: 25/15

Attempts on target: 8/6

Corners: 5/2

Fouls: 12/13

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)

Volgograd

Tunisia 1 England 2

Scorers:

Tunisia:  Sassi 35pen

England: Kane 11, 90+1

Match overview

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.

Talking point

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.

Stats

Tunisia/England

Possession (%): 40/60

Goal attempts: 6/17

Attempts on target: 3/7

Corners: 2/7

Fouls: 14/8

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 

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. 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

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.

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.

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.

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 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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