WORLD CUP : Team profile – Tunisia (group h)

In 1978, Tunisia became the first African country to win a game at the finals of the FIFA World Cup when they beat Mexico 3-1 in their very first group match. A 1-0 defeat against Poland in the next match and a goalless draw against defending champions Germany were not good enough to see the North Africans through to the next round, but the victory over Mexico secured the Carthages Eagles a place in the history books.

Since then, Tunisia have appeared at two more finals, but they are still awaiting their second victory. In 1998, Tunisia lost to England and Colombia and drew with Romania, while four years later, they lost to Russia and Japan and held Belgium to a draw.

As one of the five African countries who played at Korea/Japan 2002, Tunisia did not have to play in the preliminary African qualifying rounds for the 2006 finals. And under the stewardship of former French national coach Roger Lemerre, they more than lived up to their billing of favourites to reach Germany 2006.

They entered the qualifying competition high on confidence having won the CAF African Cup of Nations on home soil in February 2004. In the final, Lemerre’s men beat Morocco 2-1 to lift the trophy in front of 60,000 delirious fans at the Rades stadium.

As fate would have it they encountered old foes Morocco again in their qualifying group, and once more the Eagles showed that they ruled the regional roost by coming out on top, even if both matches between the North African rivals finished level — 1-1 in Rabat, then 2-2 in Tunis.

Overall, the Tunisians enjoyed a fairly comfortable passage to Germany. Defeated just once, 2-1 by Guinea, Lemerre’s team recorded six wins and three draws. What is more, courtesy of their contribution to a scintillating FIFA Confederations Cup Germany 2005, they showed they will be a force to be reckoned with. With top-class performers such as Ziad Jaziri, Santos, Adel Chadli and captain Hatem Trabelsi within their ranks, the Carthage Eagles have justifiably heightened expectations, all the more so as young striker Haykel Guemamdia is gradually establishing himself among the finest strikers in Africa. Adding to their one win so far at a FIFA World Cup looks well within their capabilities and the ambitious Tunisians will not want to stop at that.