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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Tunisia’s Group D hopes suffer major blow following loss to Australia

Tunisia’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar took a serious blow after the Carthage Eagles were defeated 1-0 by Australia on Saturday. Mitchell Duke’s first half header gave the Socceroos the lead and Tunisia could not muster a response, leaving Australia in second place in Group D on three points from two matches. Tunisia remain on one point and will need a victory over group favorites France to have any chance of advancing.

Australia showed the urgency needed to bounce back from an opening match defeat to France and strong defensive play overcame a Tunisian side with plenty of support in Qatar. The first half was an even affair but Tunisia failed to take their opportunities with Naïm Sliti denied by an excellent block from Australia center back Harry Souttar before captain Youssef Msakni also failed to take advantage of good look on the Australian goal.

The Socceroos were not as wasteful and the 23rd minute saw a crucial breakthrough to silence the Tunisian support. Craig Goodwin received the ball on the left wing and pushed forward before attempting a hopeful cross into the Tunisian penalty area. The ball took a big deflection that bounced up for Duke to direct a splendid header past Tunisia goalkeeper Aymen Dahmen, sparking Australian celebrations.

Chances continued to be few and far between with the Tunisian attack’s limitations coming into full view. Forwards Wahbi Khazri and Taha Khenissi as well as midfielder Ferjani Sassi were brought on as substitutes by Tunisia coach Jalel Kadri in the second half but the Australian defense remained resilient. Msakni was denied on a couple more occasions by Australia keeper Mathew Ryan and the Socceroos jumped for joy when the full time whistle arrived with destiny still in their control.