Following the 2018 Fifa World Cup Draw on December 1, freelance football writer, Sammie Frimpong, analyses each of the groups the five African teams were placed in and in his latest write-up, he puts the spotlight on Tunisia in Group G.
You’d have to pardon Tunisians for not being as excited about the English Premier League as other African nations are.
Aside the fact that there currently isn’t a single Tunisian player in arguably the world’s greatest championship, the North Africans run a fine league of their own, one that has produced quite a few continental champions and that has long fed its national team with quality material.
Between now and June next year, though, Tunisia would do well to develop and maintain an obsession with the EPL, the division on which two of the three teams the Carthage Eagles have drawn in Group G of the 2018 FIFA World Cup rely heavily for their players.
The first of those outside favorites, England, are the home of the EPL, of course, and there is a certain guarantee that each of the 23 players Gareth Southgate would name for the Mundial would be a bona fide Premier League star.
And while Tunisia cannot afford the same luxury, the bulk of their own squad will be from the Tunisian top-flight.
Their meeting will not just be a battle of two very different cultures; it would double as a clash of two very successful leagues.
Five days later, on June 23, Tunisia will have to contend with another dose of Premier League brilliance in Nizhny Novgorod, Belgium the opponents.
The Red Devils boast quite a contingent of Premier League gems themselves; from defence, through midfield, to attack, Roberto Martinez’s team have excellent players featuring for some of England’s elite clubs. Martinez himself has valuable Premier League managerial experience, while one of his assistants, Thierry Henry, is a Premier League legend bar none.
It gets somewhat easier in the final group game, versus World Cup new boys Panama, a team 29 places beneath Tunisia on the FIFA rankings.
However, early punditry projects that this particular fixture, Match 46 of Russia 2018, will be meaningless for both sides, having already faced their toughest opponents and likely fallen beyond recovery.
Still, it will be a good chance for Tunisia to win their first FIFA World Cup game in four decades -if they don’t manage it in the earlier matches of their campaign – 12 years after their last appearance.
That Tunisia’s games don’t fall within the taxing Ramadan period that ends on June 14 is already a huge positive for Nabil Maaloul’s Muslim players, but the 2011 Caf Champions League winner is eager to secure greater gains by the time the first round of the tournament wraps up, empowering Tunisia to reach the knockout rounds for the first time since their global debut in 1978.
“We have a great chance,” came Maaloul’s confident reaction to the draw. “We have talented players – players who are at the summit of their form and young players too. The average age of this Tunisian squad is 26 and despite meeting England, we have a great chance of reaching the second round.”
And who says a man can’t dream?
By: Sammie Frimpong/citifmonline.com/Ghana