Regardless of what happens in their opening match against France, the Socceroos might want to brace themselves for what’s coming next — the loudest team at the World Cup.
Graham Arnold said playing in Qatar would be like a home away from home for the Socceroos as familiarity with the conditions, air-conditioned stadiums and intricacies of Middle Eastern football provided an edge on their rivals.
Tunisia certainly do not fit into that category and, based on what we’ve seen so far, could lay claim to being the nation most at home in Qatar behind the hosts.
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Hours before facing world champions France, Australia’s fellow Group D rivals Tunisia and Demark squared off across town at Doha’s Education City Stadium.
The noise and atmosphere within the compact, rectangular ground will be hard to beat at this tournament – and it certainly wasn’t the Danes providing it.
Tunisian flags have been in abundance around Doha over the past week, hardly a surprise given an estimated 55,000 expats live in Qatar. Most of them, it appeared, had a ticket to Tuesday evening’s encounter as they completely dominated the share of the 42,925 fans in attendance.
There were drums and horns and the chants and cheers were deafening, as were the jeers and hisses when Denmark played the ball out from the back.
The Tunisian players are clearly out to ride the wave of support too – midfield livewire Aissa Laidouni setting the tone early by wildly revving up his fans after a sliding cover tackle on Christian Eriksen.
There will be another big concern for Arnold too ahead of Saturday night’s (AEDT) showdown. Tunisia weren’t just loud, they were good.
If Australia is to have any hope of progressing through the group they’ll need at least one victory and 30th-ranked Tunisia loom as clearly their most beatable opposition.
But it’s not going to be easy based on how they threw themselves about, defended valiantly, and continually threatened the Danes who are ranked 10th in the world.With skipper Msakni Youssef pulling the strings they created as many chances as their much-fancied rivals failed to live up to their billing as pre-tournament title dark horses — a plus for the Socceroos’ hopes of progression.
Tunisia have never reached the World Cup knockouts in five previous attempts but Jalel Kadri’s side will be encouraged both with the point — and they’ll likely fancy their chances against the Socceroos.
“This is the World Cup. This is not a small competition, it’s the most important competition in the world,” Laidouni said after the match.
“I think it’s important to come on the pitch and show determination, also with the fans we have here in Qatar. It (their support) is amazing and it’s also important to show them that we are so determined.”
MATCH REPORT (via AFP)
Since Kadri took charge of the team in January, Tunisia have only lost to Brazil and they frustrated Denmark in front of thousands of noisy North Africans.
Eriksen was largely anonymous on his return to major tournament football after nearly dying on the pitch at the European Championship last year, wilting in the face of ferocious defending.
Eriksen was the target of a big tackle in the second minute from Aissa Laidouni, who then lept to his feet and egged on the fans to make even more noise and setting the tone for hard battle.
Denmark had come into the match as favourites but Tunisia tore into their more illustrious opponents from kick-off, flying into tackles.
The massed ranks of Tunisians in the stands created a crackling atmosphere and cheered every tackle and clearance.
The African side nearly took the lead in the 11th minute, with Mohamed Drager’s long-range effort clipping off Andreas Christensen and drifting just wide.
The Danes began to get a foothold in the game but talisman Eriksen struggled to shake off the attentions of Tunisia’s well-organised backline, and although they got into dangerous positions any attacks were comfortably snuffed out.
The Tunisians came closest to taking the lead in the opening period, Copenhagen-born Anis Ben Slimane straying offside before slotting past Kasper Schmeichel, who then made sure the scores were level at the break with a wonderful stop.
Issam Jebali managed to break through onto Youssef Msakni’s smart pass but his dinked finish was brilliantly tipped away by the onrushing Schmeichel.
Tunisia kept up the intensity but it was Denmark who had the two best chances of a tight second half.
Eriksen was denied what would have been a fine goal by Aymen Dahmen’s fingertip save in the 69th minute and from the subsequent corner, substitute Andreas Cornelius somehow headed onto the post from close range.
That would have probably won the match for Denmark as Tunisia failed to match their physical efforts with much real creativity.
After surviving a late penalty scare the north Africans celebrated a precious and unexpected point with their passionate supporters.
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