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World Cup 2006 profile

Tunisia is an experienced team that could surprise

Posted: Monday January 30, 2006 2:14PM; Updated: Thursday May 18, 2006 11:25AM
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Tunisia's opponents quickly learn that huge fullback Radhi Jaidi is a tough man to move.
Tunisia's opponents quickly learn that huge fullback Radhi Jaidi is a tough man to move.
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By Gabriele Marcotti, SI.com

Through late April, SI.com will profile two World Cup teams a week. We continue with Tunisia. Click here for the full archive.

FIFA world ranking: No. 21.

How they qualified for Germany: Won Africa's Group†5 with a 6-1-3 record.

Previous World Cups: Three appearances (1978, 1998, 2002). Never advanced past group stage.

Manager: Roger Lemerre,†fifth year with team (he previously coached France to the Euro '00 title).

Key players

Hatem Trabelsi has had more injuries than you can shake a stick at in the last three years, but if he's fit and happy, the Ajax star is quite simply the best attacking right back in the world. The problem is that those two factors -- happiness and fitness -- rarely seem to converge in his case.

In midfield, veteran Riadh Bouazizi will be called upon to keep it together and be essentially an extension of Lemerre on the pitch. Bouazizi is experienced and a natural leader, and it is absolutely crucial that he be up to the job. Naturalized Brazilians Josť Clayton and Silva dos Santos have been around for a while and are fully integrated into the squad, bringing a fair dose of skill and flair.

What to watch for

Lemerre is likely to put together a rather conservative midfield geared primarily towards winning the ball. That means it will be up to the fullbacks to provide width and, in that sense, Tunisia is blessed with two gems in Trabelsi and Clayton. The pair should provide lots of crosses for the front men and be especially dangerous on set-pieces, when 6-foot-4, 200-pound man mountain Radhi Jaidi comes up from the back.

This is a very settled side which has already tasted success, winning the '04 African Cup of Nations.†The players know each other and they're well-versed in Lemerre's tactics and methods. It is also a mature team that will be very tough to break down and, if Spain or Ukraine falter, could well advance to the knockout phases.

Group:†H (Spain, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia).

Key match: June 23 vs. Ukraine. By this point, one of two things will most likely have happened: Either Ukraine will have won its two games and -- perhaps -- be in a generous mood; or Tunisia and Ukraine will be neck-and-neck and it won't take a rocket scientist to figure out that "winner takes all."

Oddsmakers' line: 300-1.

Projected Starting Lineup
Pos. Player Club team
G Ali Boumnijel Club Africain (Tunisia)
D Hatem Trabelsi Ajax Amsterdam (Netherlands)
D Karim Hagui Strasbourg (France)
D Radhi Jaidi Bolton Wanderers (England)
D Josť Clayton Qatar SC (Qatar)
M Hamed Namouchi Rangers (Scotland)
M Riadh Bouazizi Kayserispor (Turkey)
M Adel Chedli Nuremberg (Germany)
M Khais Ghodbane Diyarbakirspor (Turkey)
F Ziad Jaziri Troyes (France)
F Silva dos Santos Toulouse (France)

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