Tunisia’s coach Jalel Kadri calls it his “personal ambition” to lead his team to the round of 16 at the World Cup for the first time.
He won the Kirin Cup in Junebut hinted he could retire if Tunisia don’t progress through the group stage in Qatar.
“That is my personal ambition. If we don’t get through, then I haven’t accomplished my mission, even though the task is so difficult,” Kadri said. “We want to realize our dream and move into the round of 16 for the sixth time.”
Good luck getting out of Group D.
Tunisia meets defending champions France – with a fearsome attack from Kylian Mbappe and Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema – and European Championship semi-finalists Denmark and Australia.
“We are very realistic. Despite this, I will bring a message of optimism and ambition to the players, even knowing that the mission is difficult,” said Kadri. “The most important thing is to know how to deal with the difficult moments in a game.”
Given the French attack and the great teamwork that weds together a Danish team that pushed hosts England hard in the Euro 2020 semi-finals, there could be plenty of them.
In five World Cup appearances, the Tunisians never made it past the group stage. There have only been two victories – first in 1978 against Mexico and then four years ago in Russia against Panama.
Whabi Khazri, who scored another goal against Panama in the 2018 tournament, will again be the top attacking threat. He has scored 24 international goals.
Seifeddine Jaziri has a decent international tally of 10 goals in 28 games and acts affectively as a center forward while attacking midfielder Saif-Eddine Khaoui begins to keep his promise at the age of 27.
Khaoui was highly regarded when he joined the Marseille side six years ago but his form faltered after being loaned to lesser-known clubs. The versatile midfielder has found consistency again at French club Clermont, with two goals and two assists this season.
The Carthage Eagles open against Croatia on November 22 before taking on Australia four days later and France on November 30.
Tunisia, at least, prepared the hard way, beating five-time world champions Brazil in a friendly in Paris last month.
Hopes rose as the Carthage Eagles tied 1-1 but ended up losing 5-1.
“(We must) decide on a clear strategy and correct our mistakes, whether individually or collectively,” said Kadri, who was promoted from assistant coach in January after Tunisia sacked Mondher Kebaier. “Especially on a tactical level, in terms of our positional play and our game phases, especially in defence.”
Just like Neymar and Richarlison Torn Tunisia’s defense does not bode well considering the side will have to contend with Mbappe’s pace, Benzema’s cunning and Antoine Griezmann’s skill. Then there’s the physicality, the aerial threat and Olivier Giroud’s connection play.
“You can’t give them any room against a team of this level, whether it’s Brazil or France,” said Kadri. “You have to stay focused. You have to stay alert and reduce the available space as much as possible.”
Associated Press writer Bouazza ben Bouazza in Tunis, Tunisia, contributed to this report.
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