Battle of the Lions vs The Eagles: Tunisia Looking to Fly High in Opener Against England
Tunisia will look to open their 2018 World Cup Group G campaign with a win when they face England at the Volgograd Arena today.
Tunisia’s Carthage Eagles will look to open their 2018 World Cup Group G campaign with a win when they face England at the Volgograd Arena today.
The North Africans enter the tournament without the star quality of the other African contingent but as the top-ranked side on the continent after a good run of success in the last twelve months.
This will be their fifth appearance in the World Cup, the first in 12 years and they will begin their campaign with confidence after losing just once in their last 10 games.
Their last build-up match to the tournament ended in a 1-0 loss to Spain. This year, the Carthage Eagles have beaten Costa Rica and Iran‚ both by 1-0 score lines‚ before coming from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Portugal.
Gaffer Nabil Maaloul’s outfit were also minutes away from a good win against Turkey but again had to settle for another 2-2 draw.
The Carthage Eagles’ journey to the tournament have been wrecked by injury worries with a knee problem shattering star player Youssef Msakni’s Russia dream.
They will also be without services of first choice left back Ali Maaloul who is battling to regain full fitness.
The 28-year-old limped off Tunisia’s final warm-up match against Spain in Krasnodar last week with a hamstring issue.
A regular in the Tunisian side, Maaloul sat out in the peripheries during training this week, leaving Coach Nabil Maaloul wary over his availability.
Despite missing those two key players, coach Maaloul is fired up in his side’s ability to compete in what will be a very testing pool.
Better news is the return of Sunderland’s winger, Wahbi Kazri, declared fit for the match having fully recovered from a thigh injury which sidelined him from competitive action since the end of April.
The Carthage Eagles are rated as outsiders to qualify in group G behind England and Belgium but Khazri is their key man who will hope to lift them to the second round of the competition for the first time in their history.
He was an invaluable in the win over Costa Rica where his performance served a reminder of his ability to make an impact in the World Cup.
The Black Cats’ attacking kingpin scored the game’s only goal in that match and generally revelled in the central striking role. His clever movements and tidy interplays with his team’s fleet of technically deft midfielders will make him a constant menace for the Three Lions.
Meanwhile, England, one of the favourites to lift the trophy, will be keen on starting off with a win.
In most of their World Cup appearances they have failed to burst out of the blocks with most of the results being draws.
In 1966, they drew 0-0 with Uruguay in their opening game, the same fate that they repeated in 1990 grinding out a 1-1 stalemate with the Republic of Ireland as well as in 1986 when they lost to Portugal and tied Morocco in their first two group matches without scoring a goal.
The Three Lions failed to win a match in Brazil four years ago and then crashed out to minnows Iceland in the last 16 of Euro 2016, so will be fired up to do much better here.
From that occasion, England have been hard to beat as they have built a winning team known for playing five across defence, while holding midfielders such as Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson provide added protection.
They have subsequently kept clean sheets against Germany, Brazil and Holland in friendlies, while a 2-0 triumph over Costa Rica wrapped up a strong run of warm-up results.
In their qualifying campaign, they relied on their strikers for goals to reach the Russia finals.
England’s match against Tunisia will be the second World Cup meeting between the two countries after they won the first 2-0 to the Carthage Eagles at France ’98.