Soccer...Tunisia make their first appearance in the World Cup finals this year. Many expect them?
Soccer...Tunisia make their first appearance in the World Cup finals this year. Many expect them to be sunk without trace in Argentina but their manager and squad are optimistic.
SYNOPSIS: Judging from their recent form it is impossible to say whether Tunisia deserve their label as no-hopers for the World Cup. On home ground in April they took on Holland, the beaten finalists in 1974, and crashed 4-0. But this month they travelled to Strasbourg for a warm-up game with Hungary and drew 2-2. The Hungarians are expected to do well in Argentina but when they met Tunisia it was the African side that impressed. Confidence had grown surprisingly high after the Dutch defeat and Tunisia looked quick and skillful. Several players stood out in that performance.
Muhammed Ali Akid has attracted the attention of several French clubs. A brave centre-forward, he is the spearhead of the Tunisian attack.
Temime Lahzami scored both Tunisian goals against Hungary and must be their best player. He plays wide, and breaks from deep positions to join the attack.
The intricate skills of Tarak Dhiab begin many of the Tunisian raids and his ball-control often had the hungarian defenders in trouble. Voted African player of the year. Tarak shows real promise at 23 and could make his name in Argentina.
The experts predict that Tunisia's busiest player will be their goalkeeper - and it's there that the Africans have their most experienced player in 32-year-old captain Sadok Attouga. He has over 170 caps and played a big part in getting his country through to the finals.
Attouga's understudy is Mokhtar Naili who played one half against Hungary and looked safe. It could be that Attouga will produce his best form now that his place looks in danger.
Tunisia's qualification for the finals was not without controversy. Grouped with Egypt and Nigeria in the final African group, they lost their first match against Egypt and only drew with Nigeria. But in the return matches the Tunisians beat Egypt 4-1 and then overcame Nigeria with the help of an own goal.
Team manager is Abdelmajid Chetali. He is well aware that the public don't think his team stand a chance in south America and that many people don't think the Tunisians should be there at all. When there are teams like Portugal, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and England left out it does seem hard to justify the presence of a team they would all surely beat. But Chetali reminds doubters of the damage outsiders North Korea caused when they beat Italy in England 12 years ago. He adds that Tunisians regard this World Cup as a vital part of their development in international football. the qualifying games in Africa attracted crowds of 100,000 and Chetali knows the game must progress there. Of course it might do more harm than good if Tunisia are humiliated in Argentina, but the manager and players feel they can prevent any heavy defeat and perhaps surprise a few people.