Most likely, Tunisia had the easiest journey to the World Cup. As a ranked team, they were waved through from the first Qualifying round in Africa. In the second round, Tunisia faced Zambia, Mauritania, and Equatorial Guinea in their group. The final hurdle was Mali, a team who has also never played in a World Cup, whom they had to beat in two games. And that’s how they earned their ticket to Qatar 2022.
How do they play?
The Tunisian national team emphasizes its unity. The team’s striker Wahbi Khazri announced before the World Cup that they have not had any star players for the last six or seven years, and therefore they will not start to artificially create one. “We can also face bigger teams thanks to our flowing style of play, which is based on keeping the ball moving. The lack of stars is our strength. We are a balanced team that can also play against big countries,” he announced. The fact that Tunisia likes to keep possession was also shown in the last African Championship, where they had the ball for almost 60 percent of the time.
Why they can win?
The head coach, Jalel Kadri, has a well-balanced team at his disposal – there are a lot of men who went to the World Cup four years ago and are still leaders, but there is also a considerable number of young players. Fortunately for Tunisia, team captain Youssef Msakni, who had to miss the 2018 World Cup due to a knee injury, is also back. At that time, his leadership qualities did not get the right application, but now he is present both in the dressing room and on the field.
Why they can lose?
Although it can also be taken positively that Tunisia does not have big star players, it is unfortunately also one of the areas of concern at the same time. Is their lineup still tough enough? A large number of the Tunisian team were born in France and the African country was chosen by those who didn’t make it to the French team. But now they have to face France already in the Group Stages. Another concern is that apart from the African Championship, they don’t have much experience in big matches. In September, Tunisia held one international match against Brazil and they lost clearly 1:5.
The leading stars
Finally, Youssef Msakni’s curse will be over. He missed the 2010 and 2014 World Cups as the team failed to qualify. Four years ago, he injured his knee right before the tournament. Now he should get his long-awaited World Cup debut. A few more years and Msakni will probably become the record international player for the Tunisian national team. Another Tunisian leader is certainly Wahbi Khazri, who has scored 24 goals for the national team, and at the 2018 World Cup, he was involved in four of Tunisia’s five goals – scoring two, and assisting in two.
The fresh faces
Although currently there are no big stars in the Tunisian national team, Hannibal Mejbri, who is only 19 years old, has good potential to become one in the future, as he has already made 18 national team appearances. His CV is already catching the eye of many other Tunisian players as he is on loan at Birmingham City from Manchester United this season. All this bodes well for Mejbr’s future.