To make it out of the group stage for the first time in their World Cup history, Tunisia must defeat a France team that has already secured qualification to the round of 16 – and then pray for luck to go their way. The Eagles of Carthage, as the Tunisian side are known, were impressive in their first match against a strong Danish side. They brought intensity and defensive grit to the game, troubling the Danes, especially in the first half. Yet ultimately, Tunisia could not capitalise on their hard work, and the game ended in a goalless draw. Their lack of firing power was exposed further in their second match against Australia, where they showed an equally high level of passion and incredible work rate but eventually succumbed to a towering header from Mitchell Duke. Tunisia have yet to score in 27 shots at this World Cup, something they will have to change if they are to stand a chance of progressing.
If Australia beat Denmark in that other game, even a Tunisian win won’t help the North African side survive. But if Australia draw their match with Denmark, then a Tunisian win would be enough for them to qualify. And if Tunisia and Denmark both win their matches, they will be level on points, and qualification will depend on goal difference. France head into this match having scored six goals in two games and only need a draw to guarantee the top spot in the group. Tunisia’s defence will have their work cut out on Wednesday, despite France striker and Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema being ruled out through injury. Les Bleus have an embarrassment of riches up front, including Olivier Giroud, who bagged two goals against Australia; Kylian Mbappe, who has scored three tournament goals; Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembélé.
If they top the group, France will face the team that finishes second in Group C, which features Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Poland and Mexico. If Tunisia qualifies in second place, they will play the winners of Group C. Having already confirmed a place in the last 16, France visit the Meanwhile, the African nation sit bottom of the standings and must overcome the reigning champions to stand any chance of making it through to the knockout stages. Still waiting for their first goal of the 2022 edition, Tunisia are on the brink of an early exit from the globe’s biggest footballing tournament after coming up short in a 1-0 loss to Australia on Saturday, which saw the Socceroos leapfrog their fellow Group D rivals in the standings. Mitchell Duke’s smartly-taken header with 23 minutes on the clock was all that it took for Australia to cement their position in the top two, leaving Tunisia – who fought valiantly in a goalless draw with Denmark on matchday one – in fourth place with one game left to play.
Even if Jalel Kadri’s side can stun the world champions and secure all three points on Wednesday, Australia will progress to the last 16 with a win over Denmark, but anything less than victory for the Socceroos will open the door for Tunisia to pounce. In keeping with the theme of defensive resilience in the lead-up to the World Cup – posting seven clean sheets from eight games before Qatar – Tunisia have only conceded the one goal across 180 minutes of football, but they are one of just two teams still without a goal at the correct end after two matches – the other being Mexico. The Eagles of Carthage can take some encouragement in the fact that their side have never gone through an entire World Cup campaign without scoring before, and France may just take their foot off the gas slightly with qualification already in the bag.
It was only fitting that the current holders became the first side to confirm their place in the last 16 of the 2022 World Cup, as France continue to overcome a myriad of injury problems and pre-tournament struggles results-wise to get the defence of their crown off to an ideal start. The top-two-clinching win came at Stadium 974 in Saturday’s clash with Denmark, where Kylian Mbappe struck twice either side of Andreas Christensen’s header to ensure that Les Bleus’ journey would not end at the first hurdle. Only a point is needed for Didier Deschamps’s side to advance as group winners and potentially enjoy a more favourable last-16 tie, but even if they suffer a shock loss, Australia still need a seven-goal swing in their favour to pip the champions to first place. Now boasting six wins on the trot at the World Cup, France could equal Italy’s second-best record of seven consecutive victories on the grandest stage, although they are still some way off matching the all-time record of 11 set by Brazil between 2002 and 2006.
France and Tunisia will be locking horns for the first time since 2010 this week, with that friendly ending in a 1-1 draw, and the last four clashes between the two nations have seen Les Bleus alternate between a win and a draw – a good omen before this largely inconsequential tie for Deschamps’s men. Tunisia boss Kadri should be counting on a fully-fit squad for the showdown with France, with second-choice goalkeeper Bechir Ben Said back on the bench on Saturday after recovering from discomfort. Right-back Mohamed Drager lasted just 45 minutes of the defeat to Australia before being hauled off by his manager, which could now open the door for Wajdi Kechrida or Ferjani Sassi to start, but Kadri should keep the changes to a minimum either way.
Tunisia’s second-highest goalscorer of all time, Wahbi Khazri, has only made one substitute appearance at the World Cup so far, but the 24-goal Montpellier HSC man will surely come into consideration for a place this week. As for France, Deschamps’ second-choice goalkeeper Alphonse Areola is a slight doubt due to a back issue, but a multitude of changes can be expected as the Bleus boss spares his first-choice crop for the knockout rounds. Theo Hernandez is now the only recognised left-back in the squad following brother Lucas Hernandez’s devastating cruciate ligament injury, and Deschamps is reportedly prepared to test out Eduardo Camavinga in a left-back role to give the AC Milan defender a bit of respite. Mbappe has supposedly decided that he does not want to be rested, but alterations elsewhere could see William Saliba, Matteo Guendouzi, Kingsley Coman and Youssouf Fofana all considered for places.