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World Cup 2018: Out of Africa – Tunisia

ON THE ATTACK: Wahbi Khazri

Capital: Tunis
Population: 11.3 million
FIFA World Ranking: 14th

Did you know...?
In the Matmata region in southern Tunisia, people still live in underground houses, which provide shelter from the summer heat and winter winds.

Tunisia’s largest ever win and their heaviest defeat came just one month apart in 1960 – after losing 10-1 to Hungary in July, they defeated Chinese Tapei 8-1 just 25 days later.

World Cup appearances:
Russia will be Tunisia’s fifth appearance at the World Cup finals, having previously qualified in 1978, 1998, 2002, and 2006. They have never progressed beyond the group stages of the tournament and have only won one match, against Mexico in 1978.

Star Player: Wahbi Khazri
The 27-year-old is currently on loan from League One bound Sunderland at French top-flight side Rennes. The attacking mid elder has represented the national team, nicknamed the Eagles of Carthage, 36 times since his first call-up in 2012. Earlier that year, Khazri had played one match for France’s under-21 side in the 2013 European Under-21 Championship qualifiers, but has since pledged his allegiance to the African nation. Having spent most of his career in France, Khazri scored three goals in his 38 outings in the Premier League including one goal and one assist in Sunderland’s 2-1 victory over Manchester United in 2016.

Player to watch: Naim Sliti
A rising star, Sliti will be a key source of creativity for a relatively inexperienced Tunisian side. The 25-year-old currently plies his trade for Dijon in France’s Ligue 1, on loan from Lille and has previously played for Red Starand Paris FC. A tricky dribbler, Sliti scored twice at the 2017 African Cup of Nations against Algeria and Zimbabwe and had seven goals in 29 appearances for Dijon this season. After losing their top scorer and most capped outfield player Youssef Mskani to a knee ligament injury, Tunisia will need Sliti to be firing on all cylinders in Russia.

Manager: Nabil Maaloul
Tunisia’s 52-year-old man- ager was capped 74 times for his native country and also played in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, where they failed to qualify from the group. This is his second spell in charge of Tunisia, after he resigned to move into club football in 2014. Having also managed in Kuwait and Qatar, this will be Maaloul’s first taste of the World Cup. He’ll need to negotiate group matches against England, Belgium and Panama to stand a chance of leading Tunisia to their best ever World Cup result and just securing their first finals win in 40 years would be a success.

Stay tuned for the rest of our World Cup special feature. Tomorrow we profile another African country competing in football's biggest tournament.

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