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Tunisia eye World Cup knock-out round after beating Japan


Osaka (Japan) (AFP) – Tunisia head coach Jalel Kadri believes his side can reach the World Cup knock-out round for the first time in six attempts after pulling off an impressive 3-0 win over Japan on Tuesday.

The North Africans have never made it past the group stage of a World Cup but Kadri thinks this could be their year after second-half goals from Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane, Ferjani Sassi and Issam Jebali saw off Japan in Osaka.

Tunisia also beat Chile 2-0 in Kobe last Friday and Kadri thinks they are building momentum before taking on holders France, Denmark and Australia in Qatar later this year.

“Our aim was to get to the World Cup, but now that we have achieved that we want to get to the knock-out round for the first time — that’s our goal,” said the 50-year-old.

“We have France, Denmark and Australia in our group and that will be very difficult, but we want to make our dream come true and get through to the knock-out round at the sixth time of asking.”

Tunisia made Japan pay for a profligate first half when Romdhane opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 55th minute.

A defensive slip-up from Japan let in Sassi for the second goal in the 76th minute, before substitute Jebali rounded off a productive night for the visitors with a break-away goal in injury time.

Tunisia arrived in Japan after playing two African Nations Cup qualifiers this month and Kadri was pleased with how his players dealt with the tight schedule.

“We’ve played four games in 12 days and that has been very tough, but it’s great that we were able to win,” he said.

“Japan are a great team, especially technically and tactically, and their players are very fast. Tactically we were very good today, and we needed a lot of patience.”

Japan have also qualified for the World Cup and went into the game on the back of 4-1 friendly wins over Paraguay and Ghana and a narrow 1-0 defeat to Brazil.

Defensive mistakes cost the four-time Asian champions dearly against Tunisia, with captain Maya Yoshida at fault for the visitors’ first two goals.

Manager Hajime Moriyasu preferred to focus on the positives from the four games and said he has “options” as he plans towards Qatar.

“We were determined not to lose at home and give the fans here something to cheer about, so it’s disappointing that we couldn’t do that,” he said.

“The result is very disappointing but I’ve been using a lot of players in a lot of systems, so it’s not the players’ fault that the circumstances have been difficult.

“The players have tried hard and we will take the lessons from today and learn from them,” he added.

Tunisia’s victory meant they won the four-team Kirin Cup.

In the day’s earlier game between the beaten semi-finalists, Ghana beat Chile 3-1 on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

Ghana, who have also qualified for the World Cup, finished the game with nine men after Alidu Seidu and Mubarak Wakaso were sent off.

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