After an inspiring draw against Denmark, Tunisia wants to reach the knockout stage of the World Cup for the first time.
Who: Tunisia vs Australia, Group D
Where: Al Janoub Stadium, Qatar
When: Saturday, November 26 at 1:00 PM (10:00 PM GMT)
ranking: Tunisia (30), Australia (38)
Saturday’s game is the third meeting between Tunisia and Australia, with both sides having won one of the previous two. Australia defeated the Carthage Eagles 3–0 in a friendly in 1997, but it was a turnaround for the latter at the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup where they defeated Australia 2–0.
After a goalless draw in their opening game against Denmark, the semi-finalists of the last European Championships, Tunisia have secured their second clean sheet in a total of 16 World Cup games.
They are participating in the final of the World Cup for the sixth time in their history and aim to reach the knockout round of the competition for the first time.
Coach Jalel Kadri is likely to keep most of Tunisia’s starting eleven against Denmark as there are no new injury concerns.
Wahbi Khazri was a surprising omission for Tunisia in that game. But as the team’s top scorer, the experienced striker must return to the starting eleven against Australia. The 31-year-old is likely to replace Anis Ben Slimane and join Youssef Msakni and Issam Jebali in a show with more pronounced offensive ambition.
Captain Msakni impressed against Denmark and is expected to play an important role alongside his forwards in the final third against Australia.
And 19-year-old Manchester United midfielder Hannibal Mejbri is hoping for more playing minutes after coming on as a late substitute against Denmark.
Tunisia’s final and arguably toughest match in the group stage is against France next Wednesday, so their chances of qualifying for the knockout round may depend largely on their result against Australia.
In their opening match, the Socceroos were on the receiving end of a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Les Blues, and if they lose again on Saturday they will have crashed out of the World Cup for a third time after 1974 in the group stage for a World Cup record. and 2014.
Australia, who have lost 11 of their 17 matches at the World Cup and have failed to win in their last seven appearances on this stage – their longest winless streak in the competition.
Still, coach Graham Arnold is not expected to make major changes to his team. Captain and goalkeeper Mathew Ryan is expected to control his penalty area better this time and better protect against his defenders.