Tunisia aim to impress after long absence

Tunis, June 9 (IANS) At the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup, Tunisia are chasing their second victory at football’s biggest stage — 40 years after they recorded their first win in the tournament.

Considering the fact that the north African team will face England and Belgium during the group stages, the ‘Carthage Eagles’ might need a lot of luck in their fifth World Cup campaign to make that happen, reports Xinhua news agency.

Tunisia were lucky enough to have avoided African powerhouses on their way to Russia. Facing the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea and Libya in the last stage of the African qualifiers, Tunisia kept an unbeaten record and qualified for Russia 2018 after heading their qualification group.

In the warm-up matches played recently, Tunisia defeated Iran and Costa Rica, and drew against reigning European champions Portugal, showing potential of becoming dark horses in Russia.

Nabil Maaloul was appointed as Tunisia’s head coach in April 2017. Under his guidance, Tunisia have qualified for their first World Cup in 12 years.

The former midfielder has helped the team build up an acute tactical awareness, which has increased the confidence of Tunisian fans that their side can win at least a game in Russia.

Tunisia’s biggest weakness is the lack of superstars who can lead them to victory. Maaloul announced the team’s 23-man roster after a 2-2 draw with Turkey on June 1.

The squad, dominated by local based players, doesn’t include influential midfielder Youssef Msakni and the Tunisian league’s top scorer Taha Yassine Khenissi, who have both been forced out by injuries.

Defender Syam Ben Youssef is now seen as an important figure in the team, as he will have to deal with some of the best attacking talents in the world.

The 1.89m tall player, who plies his trade in the Turkish league, is good at controlling high balls, but if England or Belgium put the ball behind Tunisia’s defence line , the ‘Carthage Eagles’ could be in trouble.

Tunisia’s only victory in 12 World Cup campaigns came in 1978 when they saw off Mexico to register the first ever win by an African team on the biggest stage of world football

Considering the other powerful competitors in Group G, trying to beat Panama is the most realistic goal for them.

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