The Tunisia National Football team will be taking part in the greatest stage of world football, the FIFA World Cup 2018. Football in Tunisia is controlled by the Tunisia Football Federation (TFF) which is under the CAF confederation. ‘The Eagles of Carthage’ first appeared in the World Cup in 1978 following this they qualified for three consecutive times in 1998, 2002 and 2006. This will be their fifth appearance in the World Cup.
● SQUAD ANALYSIS :
• Goalkeepers: Aymen al-Mathlouthi (Al Batin/KSA), Mouez Hassen (Chateauroux/FRA), Farouk Ben Mustapha (Al Shabab/KSA)
• Defenders: Nagguez Hamdi(Zamalek/EGY), Dylan Bronn (Gent/BEL), Rami Bedoui (Etoile du Sahel), Yohan Benalouane(Leicester/ENG), Syam Ben Youssef (Kasimpasa/TUR), Yassine Meriah (CS Sfaxien), Oussama Haddadi (Dijon/FRA), Ali Maaloul (Al Ahly/EGY)
• Midfielders: Ellyes Skhiri (Montpellier/FRA), Mohamed Amine Ben Amore (Al-Ahli/KSA), Ghaylene Chaalali (Esperance), Ferjani Sassi (Al Nassr/KSA), Ahmed Khalil (Club Africain), Saifeddine El Khaoui(Troyes/FRA)
• Strikers: Fakheredine Ben Youssef (Al Ettifaq/KSA), Anice Badri (Esperance), Bassem Srarfi (Nice/FRA), Wahbi Khazri (Rennes/FRA), Naim Sliti (Dijon/FRA), Saber Khalifa (Club Africain)
Among the lot Wahbi Khazri will be carrying the hope of the Tunisians as the attacking midfielder will possess a great threat to their opponents from set-pieces. The player has enjoyed the best season of his career so far during 2017/18 with French Ligue 1 side Rennes and was a key factor in Tunisia’s return to the world stage. His most notable contributions during FIFA World Cup qualifying saw Khazri score an important goal against Mauritania in Round 2, as well as the winner against Libya in November 2016. In defence they have a widely experienced Centre-back in Yohan Benalouane and in goal they have the safe hands of Aymen al-Mathlouthi which will give relief to their defence. Ben Amore look to support his captain in the middle of the park while Ellyes Skhiri is a destructive presence in the midfield.
To Tunisa’s misfortune they will miss their talismanic goal-scorer Youssef Msakani and in his absence Saber Khalifa is expected to lead the line. Tunisian manager Nabil Maaloul says that a Tunisia side without Msakani is like an Argentina squad without Messi.
● PROBABLE FORMATIONS:
The ‘Eagles of Carthage’ has earned great success playing in the 4-2-3-1 formation. They also have the option to play a 4-3-3 keeping in mind their creativity in attack.
○ PROBABLE STARTING LINE-UP:
Saifeddine El Khaoui
● Team Rating :
Tunisia will surely be relaxed as their veteran goalkeeper Aymen al-Mathlouthi had a good season and that will surely be an relief for the defence.
○ Defence :
They have a good centre-back pairing but the defence sometimes suffer from lapse of concentration. But this time with Benalouane showing great promises the tables can turn but still Tunisia have some potholes in the defence.
○ Rating: 3/10
○ Midfield :
This is a very interesting part of the Tunisia National Football team.They have very good technical players such as Khazri, Ben Amore and also have a good tank in the midfield in the form of Ellyes Skhiri.
The attack is a concern for the side and they will hugely rely on Saber Khalifa.
● Past Record in World Cup:
Tunisia became the first African football nation to win a match in a World Cup final in 1978 when they defeated Mexico 3-1. Back in 1978, their impressive win in Argentina could not get them through the group stage, after a 1-0 defeat to Poland and a goalless draw with defending champions West Germany. But their victory over Mexico certainly earned them some credibility in the following years.
In 1998 in France, Tunisia lost to England and Colombia before drawing with Romania. Which saw them again bowing out of the competition in the group stage.
Four years later in Korea / Japan, they failed to live up to expectations against Russia and Japan before once again managing one draw – with Belgium.
This time Tunisia will travel to Germany with hopes high following their 2004 African Nations Cup triumph and an almost flawless performance during the qualifying campaign.
Lemerre’s men lived up to their favourites tag by finishing top of Group 5 – above Morocco, Guinea, Kenya, Botswana and Malawi.
● Recent Form :
Tunisia will be going into the World Cup on a high note as they are unbeaten in 2018 beating the likes of Iran and Costa Rica while drawing with European Champions Portugal and Turkey.
● Manager’s Quote:
Tunisia head coach Nabil Maaloul has suggested that his side are relishing the prospect of facing England at next summer’s World Cup.
The North African nation start their campaign against the Three Lions in Volgograd on June 18.
Maaloul is also happy that Tunisia are not in Group A or Group B, as it might have affected his team’s preparations at the start of the tournament.
“I didn’t want to be drawn in the first two groups because we would have had to play in Ramadan, which finishes on June 14,” he told reporters. “We know the English team, we have nothing to lose. We are going to try and present the best image of Tunisian football.”
● Writer’s Take:
This time Tunisia is having a very balanced squad but considering the group they are drawn to their squad looks inferior to England and Belgium. They can only claim their stake against Panama. Realistically I don’t see them proceed to the next stage.