Population: 9,700,000
Area: 163,610 km²
Capital: Tunis
Language: Arabic

Tunisia came through a rather weak CAF group 4 undefeated. Nearest opponents, the Ivory Coast, were five points behind.
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Participations: (2) 1978 and 1998
Best placing: First round elimination both times
Topscorers: Mokhtar Dhouieb Ali Kaabi, Nejib Ghommidh and Souayah, 1 goal

Jun 05 - TUN v RUS  in Kobe
Jun 10 - TUN v BEL  in Oita
Jun 14 - TUN v JPN  in Osaka

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.

WCA 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.


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 talent.

    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!


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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