I doubt Tunisia are many people’s favourite for the tournament this year, but they could do better than people expect. They are a very well drilled side who pride themselves on their defensive ability. However, goals are not their strong suit as they managed just 11 in their qualifying run.
The team qualified for the World Cup after winning their group by the skin of their teeth. They just pipped the Democratic Republic of Congo to the top spot in their group as they finished on 14 points with DR Congo lurking close behind with 13. Tunisia share a World Cup group with England, Belgium and Panama.
Tunisia Squad talk
Aymen Mathlouthi, Mouez Hassen, Farouk Ben Mustapha, Moez Ben Cherifia, Syam Ben Youssef, Yohan Benalouane, Yassine Meriah, Bilel Mohsni, Hamdi Nagguez, Ali Maaloul, Khalil Chemmam, Oussema Haddadi, Dylan Bronn, Ellyes Skhiri, Ferjani Sassi, Karim Laribi, Ahmed Khalil, Mohamed Amine Ben Amor, Ghailene Chaalali, Mohamed Larbi, Anice Bardi, Saif-Eddine Khaoui, Saber Khalifa, Naim Sliti, Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, Whabi Khazri, Bassem Srarfi, Ahmed Akaichi
Tunisia are yet to announce their final squad. Their preliminary squad includes a couple of names that will be familiar to the English fans. Yohan Benalouane plays his football for Leicester City and you might recognise Whabi Kazri from his woeful season in the Premier League with Sunderland two years ago.
The one to watch from this side is Saif-Eddine Khaoui as he is the creative spark in the side. If Tunisia are to score any goals at the tournament, you can bet your bottom dollar Khaoui will be at the heart of them all.
Despite what English fans may have seen from him, Whabi Kazri is the star of this side. The attacking midfielder enjoyed a very good season on loan in France this season with Rennes. His contribution in the qualification run saw him score important goals against Libya and Mauritania.
King of the country
Sadok Sassi is considered the greatest player to ever come out of Tunisia. The former goalkeeper has the most appearances for the Tunisian national side with an impressive 116 caps spanning a 15 year career. He played from 1963-1978 and made his debut for the national side as a teenager. Unfortunately, he missed the 1978 World Cup through injury and the side failed to qualify for any other World Cups during his career.
Who’s the Gaffa?
The manager of the Tunisian side is Nabil Maaloul. Maaloul was a stalwart of the Tunisian midfield during the 1980s and was appointed as the teams head coach in April 2017. He made his name in management with Esperance where he guided them to the 2011 CAF Champions league title. He has managed to get to Tunisia to the World Cup for the first time in 12 years.
I don’t see the team getting out of the group stages to be honest. I think they will run England close for that second spot, but ultimately come up short. My prediction for Tunisia is third.
Lazy fan fact: The nickname for the Tunisian football team is ‘The Carthage Eagles’. It’s one of my favourites at the tournament as it sounds straight out of Game Of Thrones.