2022 World Cup: Tunisia at the bottom of the wave

They will be home. Or almost. More than 30,000 Tunisian supporters are expected at the Education City stadium in Al-Rayyan on Wednesday (November 30th). Many have made the trip, adding to the residents who make up Qatar’s largest foreign community. A red tide, as for the two previous matches of the Carthage Eagles. And this “twelfth man” will not be too much to succeed against the Blues, which is an impossible mission: to qualify for the second round of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

A grail that the Tunisian selection has been pursuing for ages. Exactly since this rather sensational debut in 1978, the novice Tunisians became the first African team to win a match in the World Cup (3-1 against Mexico). Performance remains forever on the shelves, but it is the only one. In five appearances, Tunisia has recorded only one other victory, in 2018 against Panama (2-1).

A weak group

For the moment, the 2022 campaign does not upset the situation. After a satisfactory start against Denmark (0-0), the Eagles left feathers where they thought they would fly over the case, against Australia. A defeat (0-1) synonymous with forced landing, and infinite regrets. To have been satisfied with defending for too long, to have forgotten to play again, to be incapable of reacting. In preparation for the World Cup, coach Jalel Kadri already mentioned the mental fragility of his group after a correction against Brazil (last September, 1-5): “You have to work mentally. We know we have young players, and sometimes you have to know how to calm down and manage the difficult moments. »

Difficulty, even against a largely redesigned French team to give some executives a break, there will inevitably be some this Wednesday, especially since only a big victory and a helping hand from fate in the other meeting of the group ( Denmark-Australia) can brighten the horizon of the Eagles. How can you suddenly turn into an attacking squadron when defensive solidity has been the team’s leitmotif for a long time?

The national team was built on this fairly minimalist credo. It hardly shines, and its limited track record bears witness to this: only an African Cup of Nations (CAN) won at home in 2004 adorns the window. Since then, the breeders have been marching, but without much possibility of building as their seat is ejectable. Often depending on their CAN result. In August 2019, a defeat in the CAN semi-final against Senegal? Goodbye Alain Giresse, the ex-Blue thanked eight months after his hiring. His local replacement, Mondher Kebaier? The elimination in the quarter-finals of the CAN 2021 (postponed to 2022 because of the Covid-19) against Burkina Faso is fatal to him last February.

A losing championship

Jalel Kadri was his deputy, and therefore found himself in charge of the selection eight months before the World Cup. To do with the means at hand, rather meager. To build his group, the coach drew on the binational pool of players trained in France or abroad. They are 12 out of the 26 in the workforce at the World Cup, but without big names, when Morocco, for example, can count on stars playing in major European clubs.

The workforce also has only eight players playing in Tunisia. So few locals, it’s a first that underlines the bad patch of Tunisian football. The championship, renowned for the structuring of its clubs, is in fact severely affected by the economic crisis. To find resources, clubs tend to recruit in neighboring countries, in particular in Algeria, to train talents and resell them. Gradually, the local reservoir is drying up. A drying up that the Tunisian Football Federation does not seem able to counter for the time being. Its president has in fact been at open war for months with the sports minister, who is threatening to dissolve the federal office. Another complicated match, on another ground.