ROAD TO KOREA/JAPAN
|Tunisia came through a rather weak CAF group 4
undefeated. Nearest opponents, the Ivory Coast, were five points behind.
here for details
|Participations: (2) 1978 and 1998
|Best placing: First round elimination
|Topscorers: Mokhtar Dhouieb
Ali Kaabi, Nejib Ghommidh and Souayah, 1 goal
|Ali Zitouni is a promosing young
forward who scored important goals in the qualifying rounds. He is considered
to be Tunisia's most dangerous weapon alongside Ziad Jaziri.
VERDICT: First round exit
|We rate Tunisia as one of the weaker sides to qualify
out of Africa. They should capture points though as the
opposition here is weak by World Cup standard, but a second round place is unlikely.
A TEAM WITHOUT PRESSURE AND EVERYTHING TO WIN
by Peter Goldstein
Henri Michel took over Tunisia late last year, and it was a complete
disaster: a humiliating exit from the African Nations Cup, rumors of
disaffection among the players, fans and press up in arms. Every day things
looked worse -- then on March 25, the inevitable happened: after only five
months on the job, Michel jumped ship. Angered that the federation had fired
his handpicked French assistant and installed two local coaches, he resigned
his post, effective immediately.
So what now? Tunisia has appointed co-coaches, Ammar Souayah and Khemaies
Laabidi; the sense among fans and press is that Souayah will be first among
equals. An experienced coach in the Tunisian league, he's known as an
advocate of attacking football. That's good, because the national team has a
history of being defense-oriented and sluggish in attack. But as of this
writing (April 1), we can't really be sure who'll make the team or what
tactics to expect. The best we can do here is to look at some of the most
likely names -- but this is a veteran team in need of an overhaul, and we'll
probably see some unknowns when the time comes to take the field.
One spot that seems assured is keeper, where 36-year-old Chokri El Ouaer
continues to see off all comers. He can be spectacular, particularly on his
line; his decision-making remains erratic, however, and he's often
vulnerable on high balls and crosses.
On defense, the most familiar name is Khaled Badra. He's a natural sweeper,
poised, smooth, and mobile (although he may have lost a step), and is one of
the most likely people to retain his spot. Rahdi Jaidi looks to be coming
into his prime at centerback, and was the only Tunisian to receive honorable
mention in the Mali all-tournament teams. He's good in positioning and
strong in the air, although not particularly quick afoot. Hamdi Marzouki is
one of the young players in contention.
The most likely right back or wingback would be Hatem Trabelsi of Ajax;
blocky but quick and inventive, good on the ball, he can attack and defend.
The left side is up for grabs. Emir Mkademi is one of the young candidates,
stronger in defense than attack; Raouf Bouzayen isn't young, but he's
experienced and good on the overlap, and would be a safe choice.
The veterans at attacking midfielder are Zoubeir Baya on the left and Hassen
Gabsi on the right; both have creative talent, but neither is a true
playmaker. Baya is the classic cultured footballer, an intelligent passer
with both feet who can score as well. He's inconsistent and not particularly
tough, but it's hard to imagine the side without him. Gabsi is the best
natural dribbler; he's struggled with injury problems. Anis Boujelbene is a
good passer who could see time on the right side. Two youngsters with
playmaking ability are Selim Ben Achour and Anis Ben Chouikha. Veteran
Skander Souayah has made a comeback, and might get the call in the middle:
he's slow but has excellent vision, and offers good ball control and passing
The likely choice at defensive midfield is veteran Riadh Bouazizi, a good
all-rounder known for his workrate. The wild card is Adel Chedli of Sochaux,
who played two games as a junior international for France but has recently
been declared eligible to play for Tunisia. He's tireless, reads the game
well, and is probably the best at linking defense and attack.
There are three good strikers, but all have injury worries. Adel Sellimi is
active in the box and very quick on the turn; he drew the penalty that led
to Tunisia's only goal at France '98. At the moment he's undergoing
rehabilitation for a meniscus injury. Ziad Jaziri is fast, a fine dribbler
and penetrator, a lot like a traditional winger. He's had consistent
shoulder problems; right now he appears to be rounding into fitness, but
he's fragile. Ali Zitouni, only 21, is a good point man; he finds space in
the box, has a good first touch, and is effective in the air. But he's been
out for some time, and may not be ready by June. Imed Ben Younes, fast,
direct, and a clever passer, is a fourth choice.
Right now it's hard to imagine Tunisia making much of an impact on the
tournament. But World Cup fans know that March no-hopers can be June
contenders (and vice versa!), and there's no reason to count them out yet.
Group H, with Japan, Russia, and Belgium, isn't exactly a group of death,
and there's enough talent in the player pool to produce a respectable side.
With the right new faces at the right time, the squad may yet come together.
Unless you're a Tunisia fan yourself, don't worry about them until the
tournament starts -- then check back to see if this preview has any
connection with reality!
A BRIEF WORLD CUP HISTORY
by Jan Alsos
Tunisia have participated in two World Cups. The first was in
Argentina 1978 where they became the first African nation to win a match in the history of
the finals with 3-1 over Mexico. A narrow loss to Poland and a draw against defending
champions West Germany wasn’t enough to go through, but the team could hold their heads
high and be proud. It took twenty years until they qualifed again and in France ‘98 they were
not nearly as successful taking only one point from three games.
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