Tunisia World Cup PreviewPosted: Monday May 27, 2002 8:38 PM
How they line up
Tunisia's goal drought has become something of a major dilemma for joint coaches Ammar Souayeh and Khaies Laabidi. Much of the spark seen in the World Cup qualifiers, in which Tunisia scored 28 goals in 10 games, has gone. Conversely, they conceded just five, which is a small ray of hope for a side with modest ambitions for these finals.
Teams from the Arabic-speaking part of Africa are not famous for their flair or ingenuity, but have a much better sense of tactical discipline and shape.
Veteran goalkeeper Chokri El Ouaer has this year passed the 100-cap mark and will also captain the side in Japan. He had an outstanding World Cup four years ago but is sometimes overrated. A new deputy in Hassen Bejaoui has emerged, but poses no real challenge to 35-year-old El Ouaer.
Radhi Jaidi and Khaled Badra will be the two center-backs. They are now playing alongside each other again for champions Esperance after Badra spent six months in Serie B with Genoa last year. Both are well over 6ft with a penchant for making crunching tackles, but lack pace. Both, too, come forward regularly for set-pieces and score their fair share of goals.
Tarek Thabet, another player from Esperance, looks to have rehabilitated his international career of late and will come in at right-back, where he is keen to overlap. However, he is on the wrong side of 30 and prone to silly mistakes. He will be pushed all the way by Ajax's Hatem Trabelsi.
Emir Mkademi, a youthful prospect, should be the left-back, also providing the option of support down the flanks for quick counter-attacks. Brazil-born Clayton, who played at France '98, has fought his way back into the squad and will provide defensive cover along with 33-year-old Mounir Boukadida and Mohamed Mkacher.
The midfield is the preserve of Zoubeir Baya, who is as adept in a central playmaking role as he is outside on the right. Riadh Bouazizi provides the perfect foil, fetching and passing in the style of a Didier Deschamps. Raouf Bouzaiene is experienced on the left, in central midfield or at full-back. Slim Benachour, the France-born player from Martigues, could operate behind the strikers if Baya plays wide. Injury-plagued Hassen Gabsi could well feature if fit, while other midfield contenders include Kaies Ghodhbane, Riadh Jelassi and Skander Souayah.
There should be a strong challenge for the two striking berths. Ali Zitouni and Ziad Jaziri got many of the goals in the World Cup qualifiers, but Zitouni is just back from injury and Jaziri has not scored for his country since last July. This opens the door for the veteran Adel Sellimi, another from the squad that went to France 98, and Imed Mhadhebi, who has plenty of pace but is prone to poor finishing.
From World Soccer magazine.