All about the Tunisia Team at Football World Cup 2018
Tunisia's World Cup qualifying campaign was effectively a head to head battle between themselves and DR Congo. Tunisia ultimately edged through by one point thanks to the draw they obtained in DR Congo, coming back from 2 down with less than 15 minutes to play. The 'Eagles of Carthage' have played in 4 previous World Cups, but this was their first qualification since 2006. They have never previously gone beyond the initial group phase, although coach Nabil Maaloul feels that this time could be different.
Tips for Betting on Tunisia in the World Cup 2018
Tunisia faces Belgium, England and Panama in group G, and are on offer at up to 25/1 (26.00) to win the group, which may represent good value. Whilst star-studded Belgium are the obvious favourites, they have often underperformed at major tournaments, and the same can obviously be said of England. It is possible to envisage the two big names underestimating the well-organised Tunisians. After all, when England was drawn with Italy and Uruguay in 2014, few predicted that Costa Rica would top the group!
It may be worth looking at the odds for individual matches involving Tunisia. Not all of the odds have yet been published, but for their contest with England, the draw is currently on offer at somewhere between 2/1 (3.00) and 4/1 (5.00). The latter odds seem quite generous for what is a very feasible outcome. The Eagles of Carthage will probably be heavily favoured for their match with the inexperienced Panamanians, but looking for the best odds on a Tunisian win may pay dividends.
Finally, if things do not start well for Tunisia, it may be worth looking at the markets on corners and yellow cards. Their discipline could evaporate if they are facing an early exit, resulting in bookings, and, other than against Panama, they are unlikely to earn a lot of corners.
Betting Odds on Tunisia to Win the World Cup 2018
Tunisia are currently on offer at between 500/1 (501.00) and 750/1 (751.00) to triumph in the final on 15 July in Russia. Only the group rivals Panama, and Saudi Arabia, are less favoured among the 32 qualifiers. History suggests that outsiders just do not win World Cups: the biggest upset ever was probably Uruguay’s triumph in Brazil in 1950, and they were previous winners of the trophy. Is there any reason to believe that Tunisia might shock the world?
Expected Tunisia Lineup at the World Cup
At the time of writing, the World Cup is still a few months away and a lot could change. The line-up for the final qualifier at home to Libya was:
- Aymen Mathlouthi (goalkeeper and captain) (Etoile du Sahel – Tunisia)
- Yassine Meriah (CS Sfaxien – Tunisia)
- Syam Ben Youssef (Kasimpasa – Turkey)
- Ali Maâloul (Al Ahly – Egypt)
- Hamdi Naguez (Zamalek – Egypt)
- Mohamed Amine Ben Amor (Etoile du Sahel)
- Ghailan Chaalali (Esperance – Tunisia)
- Anice Badri (Esperance)
- Taha Yassine Khenissi (Esperance)
- Youssef Msakni (Al-Duhail – Qatar)
- Wahbi Khazri (Rennes – France)
This was a crucial game, in that Tunisia needed a point to guarantee qualification, so it is likely that Maaloul believed this was somewhere near his best team. The 23 player squad for this match contained only 3 players under the age of 25, so there are no real signs of a group of young players forcing the old guard out. If there is one player who was not in the squad for the Libya game who might be expected to make the trip to Russia, it would be Aymen Abdennour, the experienced defender currently on loan from Valencia to Marseille. In addition, Tunisia have shown interest in recruiting Augsburg’s Rani Khedira, brother of Germany’s Sami. In general, however, it seems likely that Maaloul will keep faith with the squad who achieved qualification. He will no doubt hope that this, in combination with the strong home-based element in the squad, will contribute towards a good team spirit – although this unity might be questioned by anyone who has experienced the bitter rivalry between Etoile and Esperance first-hand!
For the Libya game, Maaloul used a 4-2-3-1 formation, which means that a lone striker is supported by three midfielders, whilst the back 4 is protected by 2 defensive midfielders. With the right players and a high work rate, this can be a positive formation, but it clearly shows an intention to prioritise defensive solidity. This was understandable, as defeat in the final qualifier would have meant elimination and, almost certainly, a new coach!
Maaloul used two different formations in the critical games against DR Congo. At home, a fairly positive 4-3-3 produced the win, but for the away game he went for a more defensive 5-3-2. The latter match did end in the desired draw, but considering that Tunisia had to recover from a 2 goal deficit, it is questionable how much the initial formation helped! Against the weaker nations, Maaloul tended to revert back to 4-3-3, but it is clear that he believes he has a squad capable of playing in a variety of formations. In the World Cup, it is likely that he will use 4-3-3 against Panama, but something more cautious, such as 4-2-3-1, against England and Belgium.
Within the formations that Maaloul is likely to employ, the defence will be critical, as Tunisia are unlikely to be prolific goalscorers. Msakni is likely to be used as their main spearhead, as he is their current leading international goalscorer with 14 – but this is not a figure likely to strike fear into the hearts of the English and the Belgians! It does seem likely that the experience of Abdennour will be needed at the back, and, if they can bring Rani Khedira into the fold, his know-how in defensive midfield areas could also help them to stifle some of the big names.
Youssef Msakni is Tunisia’s most prolific striker. The 27-year-old has been playing his club football in Qatar for some time, which means that he is used to playing in warm conditions, and is probably unaccustomed to the kind of pressing that the European teams will implement. He has excellent control, and a powerful strike with his right foot, although he does not look the most physically strong player. He may struggle to get opportunities against England and Belgium, but if they leave him too much space he will punish them.
Wahbi Khazri is a creative midfielder currently playing for Rennes, on loan from Sunderland. He was given few opportunities during his time on Wearside, but he is thriving in France, despite being asked to play out of position at centre-forward. If Tunisia are to score goals in Russia, his creativity, particularly from set-pieces, will be crucial.
Aymen Mathlouthi is Tunisia’s captain and goalkeeper. It is likely that, if the Eagles of Carthage are to succeed in Russia, the 33-year-old will need to be in peak form. Mathlouthi is widely considered to be one of the finest ‘keepers in Africa and is particularly renowned for his skills with the ball at his feet. This is generally reassuring for his defenders, but he will need to beware of overplaying against the energetic pressing of the Europeans.