Tunisia

Tunisia had an impressive qualifying campaign, holding off their rivals the Democratic Republic of Congo in two key games in the space of five days, which meant they qualified top of their group unbeaten, winning six from eight. This achievement is all the more impressive when you consider the fact that they went through a coaching change in the middle of the campaign, with Nabil Maaloul coming back for a second stint in charge to replace Polish coach Kenryk Kasperczak. Whether or not he will remain in charge for the finals in the summer is the question, as Tunisia have a history of dismissing local coaches in favour of high-profile foreigners in the build up to major competitions.
Tunisia have never gotten past the group stages of a World Cup finals, and this summer may well be their best opportunity to improve on that record, having been drawn in a decent group with Belgium, England and Panama. Although I expect them to be outclassed by the Belgians, if they can upset the ever-unreliable English in their first game and beat Panama in their final one, they could be in a strong position to progress. Unfortunately for them they will sorely miss arguably their best player Youssef Msakni, who has been ruled out of the competition with a knee injury.

Star Players

  • Wissam Ben Yedder (Sevilla) – Although both of the 27 year old Ben Yedder’s parents are Tunisian, the French-born striker has reaffirmed his desire to play for France in the World Cup. However, even after an outstanding season both domestically and continentally for his club Sevilla, it is unlikely that he will get the French call-up, given that Didier Deschamps has such a large pool of talent available to him. If this is the case, Ben Yedder will most likely agree to Tunisia’s ever-present pleas to come and play for them in Russia.
  • Aymen Mathlouthi (Al-Batin) – 33 year old goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi, better known as Balbouli, has over 70 caps for his contrary, and can regularly be depended on to rescue the unsteady defence in front of him. His experience may well prove vital to Tunisia’s chances of progression this summer, as he will need to try to organise his defence to keep out Belgium and the dangerous English duo of Kane and Alli.

Coach

Nabil Maaloul – Maaloul was appointed to take charge of the national team for a second spell in March 2017 on a three-year contract, however there is speculation that he may be replaced before the World Cup finals in the summer. If he does remain in charge for Russia 2018, he has a chance to potentially lead his country into the knockout stages and their greatest ever World Cup finish.

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