MOSCOW – Tunisia, back in the FIFA World Cup 2018 after a 12-year absence, has a lot to prove too.
The team, after all, blazed a trail in 1978 by becoming the first African team from the continent to win a match at the World Cup. In its three tournaments since from 1998 to 2006, it has yet to notch a second.
Though England is favorite, Tunisia is likely to present a challenge, especially if conditions remain hot and muggy. Tunisia, under Nabil Maaloul, is well-organized, particularly in defense. Spain can bear witness to that, requiring a late winner in their final friendly game before the World Cup.
The team may have lost arguably its best creative player, Youssef Msakni, to injury, but it has others who can trouble England, not least the now fit-again forward Wahbi Khazri, who has turned in strong performances for French side Rennes while there on loan. Also, Ali Maaloul is a marauding left-back who could take advantage of any leaden-footed defending.
Still, Panama, in their final group match, is the more likely proposition for Tunisia to record a second World Cup victory.