Probably seen as a non-contender, Tunisia has had an impressive string of results leading into the Big Tournament, and despite heavy (heavy, heavy, heavy) underdog status will be nothing short of a challenge for a lot of teams. Unbeaten in nine games, Tunisia has grinded out results in pre-tournament international play against the likes of Portugal (2-2) Turkey (2-2), and 1-0 wins over Iran, Costa Rice, and Egypt in that time. Their biggest hurdle will be their group stage that features a few giants to overcome.
Players to watch for:
Wahbi Khazri – The midfield attacker has been on loan at Rennes in France’s Ligue 1 this season after not lighting the world on fire at Sunderland. The move to France seemed to have reignited his playing ability as he netted nine goals in 24 league games, while adding two more goals in four games of tournament play for his team. For a team that lacks fire power, he is one of the few bright spots for his team’s offence.
Yohan Benalouane – While not a superstar, this player may be recognizable for his two years at Leicester City in the Premier League. He is a veteran to say the least and has struggled with injury this season, but his defensive versatility to play all back line positions should make him valuable for Tunisia this year. Whether he plays or not, Benalouane has a lot to offer his team on and off the pitch.
Fakhreddine Ben Youseff – Playing in the competitive and increasingly talented Saudi Arabian top tier of football as well has his native Tunisian league, FBY has managed four goals and one assist in 12 games of Saudi football, while scoring four goals and one assist in Tunisian football. He scored the 64th minute equalizer for Tunisia against Portugal recently and playing up top as a winger or out-and-out striker should see enough of the ball to make a scoring impact for his team.
Admittedly not knowing much of this team, I was surprised at their ability to hold their opposition back and earn the hard points in qualification and pre-tournament play. Like many teams that lack superstar talent Tunisia has found team unity that provides them with chemistry instead of skill to fuel their team to success. While they can take a group game from Panama, Belgium and England will surely be the Goliath’s to Tunisia’s David.