- Team Countdown - Tunisia. The North Africans are the highest-ranked African country at this year’s World Cup, but if you are looking for the African team that is least likely to get out of its group, look no farther than the Carthage Eagles.
- That is not to suggest that the Tunisians are exactly poor, but what is true is that they are quite average.
In a group with two quality sides in England and Belgium, and average just won’t cut it.
The Carthage Eagles also go up against history; not once in any of the four World Cups they have previously qualified for have the Carthage Eagles managed to get out of the group, with their standard performance at this level being two group stage losses, one draw and the inevitable exit. The fact that the team’s best player in Youssef Msakni was ruled out through injury in April suggests any prospects of Tunisia qualifying for the next stage should be similarly ruled out.
How they play:
Tunisia has traditionally played disciplined football, never giving away too much and not creating much either, with a reliance on solid defending and quick counter attacks against better opponents. In the buildup matches to Russia 2018 however, the Tunisians have been uncharacteristically potent but also unusually porous, playing out two 2-2 draws against Portugal and Turkey recently.
The Tunisians have previously shown that they can frustrate superior opposition with disciplined defending, and that should be their best bet against Belgium and England in Group G.
The Carthage Eagles will suffer for creativity and goals because Msakni will be a big miss, as will be another injured attacker; Taha Yassine Khenissi.
Wahbi Khazri did not have the best of times in England with Sunderland, but he just had a good season with Rennes and is the new creative pivot after Msakni’s injury.
One to watch:
Naim Sliti, 25, is an attacking midfielder whose presence in the Tunisian team takes on a greater importance now that the Carthage Eagles need all the creativity they can find.
Tunisia, like Algeria before it, confirmed that what a North African side confronted with a World Cup tournament will do is to find all the French-born players with roots to it and draft them in its squad. The Carthage Eagles squad heading to Russia will feature a smattering of Frenchmen who will attempt to make Tunisia more than mere participants yet again. The smart money, however, should be on that endeavour falling flat, and Tunisia finishing second from bottom in Group G after losing to both England and Belgium before drawing with Panama.
Fifa Ranking: 14
Coach: Nabil Maaloul
How they qualified: Finished top of Caf
qualifying Group A
World Cup Appearances: 4
World Cup Record: 1978- First round; 1998
- First round; 2002 - First round; 2006 -
Overall Record: P12, W1, D4, L7
Best Performance: First round in 1978
World Cup High: Tunisia got off to the best
possible start at the World Cup when they
won their first-ever finals game 3-1 against
Mexico at Argentina ’78.
World Cup Low: The Tunisians finished
bottom of their group at the 2002 event.
World Cup legend: Midfielder Riadh Bouazizi
featured in three straight World Cups for
Tunisia between 1998 and 2006.
Probable line up
1. Aymen Mathlouthi (captain)
2. Hamdi Nagguez
3. Yassine Meriah
4. Syam Ben Youssef
5. Ali Maaloul
6. Ghailene Chaalali
7. Mohamed Amine Ben Amor
8. Ferjani Sassi
9. Naim Sliti
10. Ahmed Akaichi
11. Wahbi Khazri