Khazri the difference for Tunisia in 1-0 win

Tunisia’s monumental victory over France was a sprinkle of good in a big dish of bad. Although the Carthage Eagles notched their first win against France in 51 years, they were eliminated thanks to Denmark’s lackluster performance against Australia.

Of course, it was not like Tunisia played the starting eleven that terrorized the World Cup in 2018. They faced a very weakened side made up of substitutes, out-of-favor players, and young prodigies.

Club Africain center-back Nader Ghandri nearly curled a wicked volley past Rennes’ Steve Mandanda early in the match, but the linesman ruled it offsides.

This French team was not an easy win though. Kingsley Coman and Wesley Fofana all had their chances, but they usually fell off target. Tunisia had better chances, with only Eduardo Camavinga’s brilliant defending and Mandanda’s clutch saves keeping France level.

Yet Tunisia had hope, and they turned that hope into reality. Ferencvaros’ Aissa Laidouni set a ball to Montpellier talisman Wahbi Khazri. Khazri embarked on an incredible dribble from the beyond the box, squeaking through the porous French back line and scoring from a tough finish inside the 18.

Tunisia’s joy was shortlived. Although, at the time, Tunisia would get into the round of 16, Matthew Leckie’s dizzying finish ended that dream. Now Tunisia not only needed to hold off a motivated France squad, but had to pray for a Denmark goal.

Some of France’s stars started subbing in after Khazri’s goal. Kylian Mbappe subbed in for Coman while Juventus’ Adrien Rabiot replaced Marsielle midfielder Jordan Veretout.

Even Atleti’s Antoine Griezmann joined the fray later in the game to bolster France’s attack, replacing Fofana. Tunisia’s defense had to deal with countless shots from Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele, but they held strong.

That is, until the 99th minute. Aurelien Tchouameni crossed in the ball to the swarm of players, and Tunisia could not deal with it. Antoine Griezmann pounced on the chaos in the box, striking a big half-volley to equalize for France. Thankfully, VAR counted the goal offsides. Yet Australia’s result stood, and despite a big win over France, Tunisia could not go through.

Goodbye, Tunisia

Tunisia’s stint at the World Cup was the opposite of glamorous. In all of its three matches, it conceded just once but scored just once. Its sluggish attack consisted of Issam Jebali, who consistently underwhelmed Tunisia supporters.

Going into the World Cup, he started just once for Tunisia(a 0-0 draw where he left at halftime). It showed. Not only did he have a goalless stint at Qatar, but he had just 60 touches, 25 completed passes, and ten fouls. He won only two duels and lost 15, meaning that Tunisia could not get the ball into dangerous spots.

It’s a good reason why Tunisia’s only goal at Qatar came from Khazri’s dribble through the back line. The dull point of Tunisia’s attack kept them from creating good opportunities.

Keeping national team regular Ben Romdhane and Tunisia legend Wahbi Khazri on the bench was one of Jalel Kadri’s biggest mistakes. Both showed a lethality against France that Tunisia sorely missed. They definitely could have used the two in their dull offensive performances against Denmark and Australia.

Despite leaving Qatar on a good note and besting the world’s reigning champions, Tunisia’s World Cup was objectively a failure.

Tunisia did not shake the stigma that Tunisia is an easy team to beat. Tunisia’s win over France was marred by the fact that France rested its starters. Denmark looked extremely shaky in the entire tournament, and their loss to Australia only enforces the narrative.

“I have a contract based on results and being eliminated from the group stage will be a failure for me,” Get Football News France quoted Kadri. His resigning is imminent as an uncertain Tunisia wonders where they can go from 2023 and beyond.

Photo credit: IMAGO / PanoramiC

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