The Nations of the 21st World Cup – Tunisia

Tunisia National Team

Tunisia

The Carthage Eagles

Every four years, national pride and footie artistry reach peak levels in a global dance of no small magnitude, the World Cup is here again. This summer, all eyes will be focused on Russia as the time to crown a champion draws ever near. With the sport’s best and brightest from 32 lucky nations on display, it’s time to take a look at what each squad brings to the table. We will dive deep beyond the usual team sheets, we’ll scratch beyond the player names, and get you ready to be the smartest on the couch/bar stool for Russia 2018.

Tunisia

Qualifying Record (W-D-L) 4-2-0
Current FIFA World Ranking (April 2018) – 14th
World Cup 2014 Finish – DNQ
Russia 2018 Group G (Belgium, England, Panama, Tunisia)
Formation – 3-5-2
Strengths – Excellent as a unit, fast passing side, technical flexibility.
Weaknesses – Best player missing via injury, they do not score a lot.
Major Threats – Wahbi Khazri, Naim Sliti

After missing the last two World Cups, Tunisia are back in the big leagues. The Carthage Eagles breezed thru qualifying and will be ready to surprise the big European teams in Group G.
Are you a fan of the Carthage Eagles or just really love National Team Jerseys? Remember to buy a shirt now before the tournament starts!

Realistic Federation Goal for RUSSIA 2018:

The FTF are happy to have broken the twelve year World Cup duck but they’ll expect a first time 2nd round showing despite being grouped with Belgium and England. It’s a tough group for Tunisia but they’ll hope to surprise one of the European sides and take advantage of the ‘weak’ Panama.


DEFENSE:

Tunisia conceded only four goals in qualifying for the Mundial. They are a stingy disciplined lot especially when they play a possession based style. The issue at the World Cup is they may not own the possession wars so the increased pressure on the defense will put them to severe test. Belgium like the ball, and Panama will try to win that battle as well. Tunisia’s individuals are not necessarily the greatest but as a unit, they’re extremely disciplined and defend as a collective.

The centerback pairing of Syam Ben Youssef and Yassine Meriah have shown a great ability to dovetail with one another and while Ben Youssef is the experienced head, Meriah has shown real potential and the ability to become another Tunisian great. If Coach Nabil Maaloul keeps to his word, there’s the possibility that Ellyes Shkiri will join those two to give the Carthage Eagles a back 3 formation. Maaloul really liked how the formation worked in friendlies so watch out for that nifty bit of flexibility. A three man centerback pairing in the 3-5-2 formation makes Tunisia even more formidable defensively because it’s really more of a 5-3-2 because with a pair of wingbacks (leftback Ali Maaloul especially is a true modern wingback and to a lesser extent Hamdi Nagguez) who are defense-first oriented. Whether it’s a back 3, 4, or 5, Tunisia’s defense works well together and will be hard to break especially with level of help the guys give each other and the consciousness of the fullbacks towards helping cover the centerbacks. There’s also a name to note in central defense and that’s Aymen Abdennour who has always scratched the itch of greatness in European football while never quite breaking thru. He’s another option for a strong Tunisian defense though much like the other CB’s, he isn’t quite the best at playing the ball out on the turf.

The goalkeeper position is pretty solid. The captain and starting goalie is Aymen Mathlouthi and whether he starts or not, he’ll be in the squad playing a major inspirational role. If Mathlouthi does not start, Farouk Ben Mustapha will get the position and he has been excellent whenever he’s played. It’s a great problem to have for Coach Maaloul.

MIDFIELD

Tunisia’s midfield can be a three man middle but sometimes not really, bear with us while we explain. Whether it’s a 4-3-3 or 3-5-2, it’s could be a middle three of Anice Badri, Wahbi Khazri, and Ferjani Sassi behind them however this is a very attack minded midfield and while Sassi is the defensive machine who lays the platform for the other two to weave sweet passing tangos with the attacking trio, he is known for being a deep-lying playmaker who can drive the ball from deep. Essentially Tunisia could have three men in midfield who can pass the ball and influence play rapidly but the major thing is these guys can join the attack as part of the attack and Tunisia can play without a traditional set of attackers because of that. The side can play without a traditional center forward instead a bunch of attacking midfielders create a create set of problems for the opponent. The biggest problem with this fluidity between attack and midfield is that the issue of goals (or the lack of) comes up. The attacking midfielders have to be clinical otherwise for all the beautiful football Tunisia play, they’ll struggle to score.

The Carthage Eagles are at their best when they go forward. There are so many gifted passers and ball players on this side and when they attack, they’re a joy to watch. If Coach Maaloul chooses to sit back at the Mundial, it could be ugly because the midfield won’t provide the defense a strong enough shield. A guy who provides a more typical defensive midfield role is Mohamed Amin Ben Amor who is really good at clean-up and winning the ball but when he plays Tunisia won’t be as fluid and he is often left isolated so there’s a measure of give and take with him in the lineup

Wahbi Khazri

Soccer Football – International Friendly – Tunisia vs Costa Rica – Allianz Riviera, Nice, France – March 27, 2018 Tunisia’s Wahbi Khazri celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

STRIKERS

Naim Sliti and Saif Eddine Khaoui are attacking midfielders who play nominally upfront and are supposedly responsible for providing goals. The loss of Youssef Msakni is a big deal because he provided a chunk of goals and creativity along with an attacking focal point. Taha Yassine Khenissi or Ahmed Akaichi can play in the more traditional focal center forward role but their combined national team goals don’t match what Msakni has singlehandedly scored for the Carthage Eagles, and they’ve also scored less than Khazri. Basically Tunisia will miss Msakni and that will probably be the difference between them upsetting one of the big European teams in Group G and advancing past the group phase for the first time. Msakni’s injury feels like a huge missed opportunity for Tunisia because they’re grouped with two big European sides who tend to wilt under intense pressure and inspection and it’s unlikely Tunisia can put her best foot forward without Msakni. Coach Maaloul may choose to invite Hamdi Harbaoui who has been a regular goalscorer at Zulte Waregem in Belgium but he’s not been a part of the national setup and he is 33 years old so does even he would be a stretch. Tunisia need to be bold and play attacking football, and hope the midfielders pick up the goalscoring mantle, that’s the best hope for the Eagles.

GAME by GAME (v England, v Belgium, v Panama)

*Keys to England game: The first game of the group will set the tone for the Carthage Eagles. If they can avoid defeat here, they will qualify from this group. The problem is England are just the kind of side who know how to grind out a result from this kind of game. Can Tunisia’s centerbacks avoid mistakes against Rashford and the pace of the English counterattack? Can the Eagles’ deal with the movement of Harry Kane, Vardy or Rashford?
On the flip side, Can Tunisia score? That’ll be the big question. England will be hard to break because of their discipline. Can Tunisia move the ball fast enough in the final third to break the English resolution? Can Tunisia score early and force the English to change their gameplan?
Prediction: Tunisia will probably outplay the English and wind up feeling hard done by after they lose this game but England feels like a team who will be content to grind out a result and if the English play within themselves, they should have enough to squeak a narrow win.

*Keys to Belgium game: This game depends on if Tunisia loses the opener against England. If they avoid defeat, expect them to play with confidence on the ball and push Belgium. If they get nothing from the England game, they’ll likely force things v the Red Devils. Can Tunisia deal with the movement of KdB and Eden Hazard? Can the centerbacks maintain discipline and integrity versus Romelu Lukaku’s movement and power? Going forward, can the Eagles press mistakes out of Kompany? Can they stretch the field enough to force Belgium’s wingers to do a fair bit of defensive work which will restrict their attacking impact?
Prediction: This game does not feel like a good matchup for Tunisia. The Belgians are likely to be troubled by a direct side who can counter with pace and stretch them, Tunisia is not likely to be that side so the likelihood will be this is another loss for Tunisia.

*Keys to Panama game: Can Tunisia handle the aggression Panama will likely bring in this last game for pride? Can the Tunisians avoid unnecessary mistakes at the back? Where will the goals come from? Can Khazri stamp his mark on this game?
Prediction: Tunisia should have too much for Panama in this one and ought to be able to win by a couple.

Tunisian NT coach

Nabil Maaloul

Here’s the likely Tunisian Roster for Russia 2018

GOALKEEPERS (3): Aymen Mathlouthi, Farouk Ben Mustapha, Mouez Hassen

DEFENDERS (8): Ali Maaloul, Youssef Meriah, Aymen Abdennour, Syam Ben Youssef, Hamdi Nagguez, Dylan Bronn, Yohan Benalouane, Ellyes Shkiri

MIDFIELDERS (8): Ferjani Sassi, Wahbi Khazri, Mohamed Amin Ben Amor, Naim Sliti, Saif Eddine Khaoui, Karim Aouadhi, Bassem Srarfi, Ahmed Khalil

FORWARDS (4): Taha Yassine Khenissi, Anice Badri, Hamdi Harbaoui, Ahmed Akaichi

Piece by Tise Okuo, frequent Center Circle writer, a recovering fan of Arsenal FC and lover of football.

 

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About the author: Tise Okuo

 

Soccer nut. Arsenal fan, used to enduring hard times. Admirer of the purity of tiki-taka, total football, catenaccio, and any other system bold enough to be itself. In my spare time, I am a professional thinker. Engage with me on Google+.

 

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