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FIFA World Cup: Russia 2018

A Herculean Task: Tunisia Facing Belgium in a ‘Make or Burst’ Clash Today

Tunisia head into Saturday’s second Group G fixture against Belgium knowing only a victory will leave them with a chance of progressing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Tunisia head into Saturday’s second Group G fixture against Belgium knowing only a victory will leave them with a chance of progressing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

The North Africans started their campaign with a painful 1-2 loss against England on Monday at the Volgograd Arena.

Having netted an equaliser through Ferjani Sassi’s well taken penalty which cancelled Harry Kane’s goal in the 11th minute, the Carthage Eagles failed to clear their lines and allowed the striker to score his second for England in the closing minutes of the match.

Coach Nabil Maaloul’s troops were left frustrated in the end as they failed to secure maximum points, they now sit third in the group with no point.

In the match they hardly made any attacking effort in the second half, to stay in contention they will need to end a 12-match winless streak at the World Cup finals, stretching back 40 years.

Tunisia’s footballing virtues have been well documented; the organization, the athleticism, the tactical self-awareness of its strengths and weaknesses.

Up against a Belgium side unbeaten in their past 10 World Cup group games, it’s hard to see Tunisia pulling off an upset but coach Maaloul is optimistic having said that he has worked on correcting the mistakes against England for the past three days and the target is to win against the Red Devils.

Belgium are the pool leaders and  produced an impressive performance to down Panama 3-0 in their opening match but the win received mixed reactions back at home which fans openly criticizing how the team performed particularly in the goalless first half.

The Red Devils’ midfield axis of De Bruyne and Witsel look to be one of the strongest in the tournament so far, while the attack comprising Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku also impressed against the South Americans.

Yet, one feels that Belgium’s defenders such as Jan Vertonghen and Dedryck Boyata, will be in for a stern test, especially from Tunisia’s Wahbi Khazri- the Sunderland maestro was an influential figure against England, but appear to have left his scoring boots at home as he missed numerous scoring chances against England.

It’s unlikely he – along with Fakhreddine Ben Youssef and Naim Sliti – will be so profligate again, meaning Belgium will need to be at the top of their game to keep the Carthage Eagles at bay. Coach Roberto Martinez will call for an even more precise and disciplined performance from the men in White and Red.

The Carthage Eagles will have to make at least one enforced change against Belgium, with goalkeeper Mouez Hassen having returned home to undergo surgery on an injured shoulder. Oussama Haddadi at left-back and Ali Maaloul at the centre will provide cover for him in the quest to provide stout resistance as any form of defeat will send the team back to Tunis.

Belgium have, otherwise, reported no fresh injury concerns, leaving coach Martinez with a full fit squad to pick from.

This will be the second meeting between Tunisia and Belgium  at a World Cup tournament as they previously drew 1-1 in the 2002 group stages, in what was Tunisia’s only point in that edition.

Possible line-ups

Tunisia: Farouk Ben Mustapha; Yassine Meriah, Syam Ben Yousef, Dylan Bronn, Oussama Haddadi; Ellyes Skhiri, Anice Badri, Ferjani Sassi; Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, Wahbi Khazri, Naim Sliti

Belgium: Thibaut Courtois; Jan Vertonghen, Dedryck Boyata, Toby Alderweireld; Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Meunier; Dries Mertens, Eden Hazard; Romelu Lukaku

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