By Sportswriter Yao Youming
At the upcoming 2018 World Cup, Tunisia are chasing their second victory in the World Cup, 40 years after they recorded their first win in the tournament.
Considering that the 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.
Tunisia were lucky enough to have avoided African powerhouses on its 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 spearheading their qualification group.
In the warm-ups played recently, Tunisia defeated Iran and Costa Rica, and drew against the 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 superstar 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 players, doesn’t include the influential midfielder Youssef Msakni and the Tunisian league’s top scorer Taha Yassine Khenissi, who are both 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-high player, who plays in Turkish league, is good at controlling high balls, but if England or Belgium put the ball behind Tunisia’s defense line , the Carthage Eagles will 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 soccer stage. Considering those powerful competitors in Group G, trying to beat Panama is the most realistic goal for them.