On Wednesday, Tunisia claimed a famous victory over France’s team made up entirely of backup players, but their 1-0 win over the reigning champions was not enough for the North Africans to progress to the World Cup knockout stages.
Tunisia stormed onto the pitch to battle a disorganized French team boasting nine changes from the squad that beat the Danes. Tunisia needed to win against already-qualified France and pray for Denmark to avoid defeat against Australia in the other Group D game.
However, their victory over the 2018 World Cup champions was not enough to advance them to the next round, as Australia defeated Denmark 1-0 to finish second in Group D. Tunisia maintains their unfavorable record of failing to advance from the group stage in six World Cup appearances.
Tunisia’s third World Cup victory came in the 58th minute when French-born Wahbi Khazri dribbled into the area and slipped the ball past backup goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, who, at 37, is the oldest Frenchman to compete in a World Cup match. Tunisia’s victory also broke France’s six-match World Cup winning streak.
Tunisia threatened early on, with Nader Ghandri curling a free kick into the net, but the play was deemed offside. The tension in the stands was evident, with Tunisian fans at Education City whistling throughout the French national anthem before kickoff. The same happened in 2008 during an emotionally charged friendly between France and its former colony in Paris.
The Tunisian captain’s goal galvanized the French, with Deschamps bringing in players like Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann to kick-start a sluggish offensive.
Mbappe and Griezmann energized the French, who were helped by Tunisia, sitting back and wanting to keep their lead. Substitutes and staff on the Tunisian bench were fixated on the other crucial group-stage game in the waning minutes of their encounter.
France pressed on, hoping to avoid the disgrace of a defeat, but Griezmann’s stoppage-time goal was rejected due to offside.
Tunisia: Dahmen (7), Talbi (7), Meriah (7), Ghandri (7), Khazri (8), Maaloul (7), Laidouni (7), Ben Romdhane (7), Skhiri (6), Kechrida (7), Slimane (7)
Subs: Jebali (7), Chaaleli (7)
France: Mandanda (5), Disasi (6), Varane (6), Konate (6), Camavinga (6), Guendouzi (6), Tchouameni (7), Kolo Muani (7), Fofana (3), Veretout (5), Coman (7)
Subs: Mbappé (7), Rabiot (6), Saliba (6), Griezmann (6), Dembele (7)
Man of the match: Whabi Khazri
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