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Tunisia stunned by Syria to put FIFA Arab Cup hopes in doubt

It will be an interesting final day in Group B at the FIFA Arab Cup following Tunisia’s shock 2-0 defeat to Syria on Friday. An early goal from Oliver Kass Kawo put Syria ahead before Mouhamed Anez’s strike in the 47th minute finished the job, with a straight red card late in the first half also hurting Tunisia’s cause. The Carthage Eagles will now likely need a win against United Arab Emirates on Monday to clinch their spot in the knockout stages. Syria, whose last competitive win came nearly six months ago against Guam in FIFA World Cup qualifying, can book their ticket with a win against Mauritania.

Syria came out without fear by looking to press high against the favorites, and they were richly rewarded in the 4th minute with a dream opener. Kass Kawo, a 19-year-old attacker playing his club football in the Swedish fourth tier, caught Tunisia midfielder Ferjani Sassi in possession and stole the ball thirty yards from goal before having time to close in and shoot from distance. Goalkeeper Farouk Ben Mustapha could only get a hand to the low shot with the ball bouncing into the net to give Syria the lead.

Despite dominating possession and generating more opportunities, Tunisia failed to find a goal and fell victim to a Syria side that was clinical in punishing mistakes from the Carthage Eagles. Tunisia put their chances in further doubt with a costly mistake during an extended period of first half stoppage time. Mohamed Ben Romdhane went up for a header in the midfield and struck Anez in the face with an elbow, leading to a VAR review and the awarding of a straight red card to the Espérance midfielder.

Soon after the halftime break, it was a moment of brilliance once again from Syria that put them beyond reach. In the 47th minute, Mahmoud Al Baher did well to find space in the Tunisian end and sent a pass to Anez, who had plenty of space to move forward and shoot. The Al-Riffa player lined up a shot from 25 yards that curled beyond the diving Ben Moustapha and rattled off the crossbar, leaving the Tunisians stunned yet again.

Tunisia continued to have more shots and possession even with the numerical disadvantage, but the well-organized Syrian defense made the two-goal lead hold until the end. Highlights of the match are in the link below.

Highlights from FIFA TV

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