Tunisia coach Kadri wants World Cup advancement for 1st time
Oct 24, 2022, 1:28 PM | Updated: Oct 26, 2022, 6:57 am
(AP Photo/Hassene Dridi, File)
Tunisia coach Jalel Kadri calls it his “personal ambition” to get his team into the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time.
He won the Kirin Cup in June, but hinted he could quit if Tunisia fails to get out of the group stage in Qatar.
“It’s my personal ambition. If we don’t get through, I will not have succeeded in my mission, despite how tough the task is,” Kadri said. “We want to make our dream come true and get through to the knockout round at the sixth time of asking.”
Good luck getting out Group D, though.
Tunisia faces defending champion France — which boasts a fearsome attack of Kylian Mbappe and Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema — and European Championship semifinalist Denmark, along with Australia.
“We’re very realistic. Nevertheless, I will pass on to the players a message of optimism and ambition, even though I know the mission is difficult,” Kadri said. “The most important thing is to know how to cope with the difficult moments in a game.”
There could be plenty of those given France’s attack and the great teamwork that knits together a Danish team that pushed host England hard in the Euro 2020 semifinals.
The Tunisians have never been past the group stage in five World Cup appearances. There have been only two wins — the first against Mexico in 1978 and then against Panama four years ago in Russia.
Whabi Khazri, who scored against Panama and added another goal in the 2018 tournament, will again the main attacking threat. He has scored 24 international goals.
Seifeddine Jaziri has a decent international record of 10 goals in 28 matches and operates affectively at center forward, while attacking midfielder Saif-Eddine Khaoui is starting to fulfill his promise at 27 years old.
Khaoui was rated highly when he broke into the Marseille team six years ago, but his form drifted off after he was loaned out to lesser-known clubs. The versatile midfielder has found consistency again with French club Clermont, with two goals and two assists this season.
The Carthage Eagles open against Denmark on Nov. 22 before facing Australia four days later and then France on Nov. 30.
At least Tunisia has prepared the hard way, taking on five-time World Cup champion Brazil in a friendly last month in Paris.
Hopes soared when the Carthage Eagles drew level at 1-1, but they ended up losing 5-1.
“(We must) decide on a strategy that is clear and rectify our errors, whether they are individual or collective,” said Kadri, who was promoted from assistant coach in January after Tunisia fired Mondher Kebaier. “Especially on a tactical level, in terms of our positional play and our phases of play, notably in defense.”
The way Neymar and Richarlison pulled apart Tunisia’s defense does not bode well, considering the team will have to deal with the pace of Mbappe, the guile of Benzema and the craft of Antoine Griezmann. Then there’s the physicality, aerial threat and link-up play of Olivier Giroud.
“Against a team of this level, whether it’s Brazil or France, you can never leave them any space,” Kadri said. “You have to maintain your concentration. You must stay attentive and reduce the space available as much as possible.”
Associated Press writer Bouazza ben Bouazza in Tunis, Tunisia, contributed to this report.
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This story has been edited to correct that Tunisia will face Denmark on Nov. 22, not Croatia.
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