FIFA World Cup Special : Team Talk – Tunisia have an uphill task but their current form must inspire them to cause an upset

Tunisia do not have big name stars, but they can cause upset as a unit.

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World Cup 2018 is knocking the doors and the 32 participating nations are now highly enthusiastic and fully focused upon completion of club football. They are proud to represent their countries in such a prestigious event and a few of them, despite being the minnows, are capable of causing a few upsets. Tunisia are probably one of them.

Initially a France protectorate, Tunisia were later declared as an independent and separate nation in 1934. They have fought for their place in world map ever since and their football earned them fame despite several constraints. Although they have been drawn alongside heavyweights Belgium and England, the Eagles of Carthage will deliver spirited and lion-hearted display to defy the odds and surprise the world.

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Team: Tunisia

Coach: Nabil Maâloul
Captain: Wahbi Khazri
Nickname(s): نسور قرطاج (The Eagles of Carthage)
Last Qualified: 2014
Result in 2014: Did not Qualify
Qualified From: CAF
Previous World Cup Appearances: 5 Times (1978, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2018)
Best World Cup Finals Result: Group Stage

The Final Squad

Goalkeepers: Farouk Ben Mustapha (Al Shabab, Saudi Arabia), Moez Hassen (Chateauroux, France), Aymen Mathlouthi (Al Baten, Saudi Arabia)

Defenders: Rami Bedoui (Etoile du Sahel), Yohan Benalouane (Leicester City, England), Syam Ben Youssef (Kasimpasa, Turkey), Dylan Bronn (Gent, Belgium), Oussama Haddadi (Dijon, France), Ali Maaloul (Al Ahly, Egypt), Yassine Meriah (CS Sfaxien), Hamdi Nagguez (Zamalek, Egypt)

Midfielders: Anice Badri (Esperance), Mohamed Amine Ben Amor (Al Ahli Riyadh, Saudi Arabia), Ghaylene Chaalali (Esperance), Ahmed Khalil (Club Africain), Saifeddine Khaoui (Troyes, France), Ferjani Sassi (Al Nasr, Saudi Arabia), Ellyes Skhiri (Montpellier, France), Naim Sliti (Dijon, France), Bassem Srarfi (Nice, France)

Forwards: Fakhreddine Ben Youssef (Al Ittifaq, Saudi Arabia), Saber Khalifa (Club Africain), Wahbi Khazri (Rennes, France).

Key Players

Tunisia have a squad full of mostly unfamiliar names and their key forward Youssef Msakni’s injury absence is set to be a huge blow for the Carthage Eagles. They, however, still have a few decent resources who mostly earned fame in French football.

1)  Wahbi Khazri

Will be wearing the armband for his nation and the winger is known to football fans for his reputation with Bastia and Bordeaux before completing a Premier League move for Sunderland. Although he played his part in a relegation escape during his debut campaign in English football, the 2016-17 season was disastrous for the Black Cats as they demoted to Championship and Khazri eventually completed a loan move to Rennes where he redefined his form and guided the French outfit to finish fifth in Ligue 1.

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2) Bassem Srarfi

The 20-year-old midfielder is regarded as one of the future stars who made his mark in Ligue 1 with Nice last season. Srarfi was an unused substitute during World Cup qualifiers against DR Congo. However, he earned his maiden senior cap back in March against Iran and now might be handed a significant role in Tunisia midfield versus the giants like Belgium and England.

3) Ellyes Skhiri

A familiar Face of French football who progressed through the academy ranks of Montpellier and eventually earned a regular status for their senior side. Skhiri too recently earned his senior debut against Iran and registered a place in their World Cup squad. The 23-year-old midfielder is young but holds experience at club level, therefore, must step up and deliver for his side to script a miracle.

Recent Form:

Tunisia had a scintillating run during the qualifiers as they remained unbeaten in their group and edged past DR Congo in two key games within five days to finish as group leaders. They have enjoyed a great run in the recent friendlies where they defeated Iran and Costa Rica back in March and drew against Portugal and Turkey in the warm-up fixtures. They still have one outing left before entering the main event as they will lock horns with favorites Spain on 9th June.

Group Matches:

Tunisia were drawn in Group G alongside England, Belgium, and Panama. They will play England in their opening match on 18th of June, followed by Belgium and Panama on 23nd and 28th June respectively.

Prediction:

Although they will miss out the key figures, the Eagles of Carthage have enjoyed an impressive run in recent months and must upset at least one among England and Belgium to make it to the knock-outs for the first time in their history. On paper, they are likely to finish above Panama but have little hope of making it to the Round of 16.

Trivia:

Although they have never made it past the first round of a World Cup, Tunisia nevertheless holds the distinction of being the first African side to win a game at the World Cup Finals. They beat Mexico 3-1 at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. [Source: SuperSport]

 

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