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Saturday, September 30, 2023

2023 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifying Preview: Group J



FIFA Ranking: 35

AFCON Appearances: 20

Best Finish: Champions (2004)

Manager: Jalel Kadri

Key Player

Hannibal Mejbri (Manchester United- England)

It is not clear that the 19-year-old Manchester United player will even start for a national side that tends to value veteran experience, but if Tunisia wants to make any impact in the 2022 FIFA World Cup then these are the perfect games to provide a test for the savvy midfield playmaker. Mejbri has marked 2022 so far with his first career start for Manchester United and an Africa Cup of Nations debut for Tunisia, and while he did not find success in either match his skillset is too valuable to ignore for a Carthage Eagles team that needs new ideas. It will be interesting to see if he can graduate to a starting position during Tunisia’s 2023 AFCON qualifying campaign.

Other players to watch

Ellyes Skhiri (FC Köln- Germany) Essential to Tunisia for his ability to contribute as a two-way midfielder, Skhiri’s availability has been limited lately for Tunisia and the team has suffered for his absence by barely making it past Mali in the Qatar 2022 playoff. The 27-year-old will be absent for Tunisia’s opening two qualifiers and it remains to be seen how they will perform against Equatorial Guinea and Botswana without him.

Mohamed Dräger (FC Luzern- Switzerland) Tunisia gains strength from their fullbacks and Dräger holds down the right flank with his excellent stamina and ability to get forward. Lining up opposite veteran Ali Maâloul on the left flank, both will be key to making the Tunisian attack more fearful.

Naïm Sliti (Al-Ettifaq- Saudi Arabia) The tricky winger/forward is usually a reliable threat for the Carthage Eagles with his dribbling and ability to score goals but his form has fallen for club and country a bit in the past year. The 29-year-old failed to score for Tunisia at the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup, the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations as well as 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying. However, five goals in his last four matches for Saudi club Al-Ettifaq suggests that he may be reinvigorated for Tunisia’s fixtures during the remainder of 2022.


Despite an attack that has misfired lately, Tunisia are a steady force in African football with a defense that is very difficult to break down. Group J appears to be a good draw for the Carthage Eagles and they should be able to navigate their way to first place and a spot in Ivory Coast.