Tunisia eager to set World Cup tonic in friendly against Spain

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Tunisia have established themselves as the African team to watch at the World Cup as they head into their final warm-up game against Spain on Saturday

An impressive run of nine unbeaten games has heightened expectations on them ahead of a World Cup Group G campaign against England, Belgium and Panama.

The Carthage Eagles were the first African team to arrive in Russia on Thursday, landing in the city of Krasnodar where they will take on 2010 world champions Spain. Tunisia's the top-ranked African nation and 21st in the world.

Having last tasted defeat in March last year after being edged 1-0 by North African counterparts Morocco in a friendly match, Tunisia went on to record five wins and four draws including recently holding European champions Portugal 2-2 in one of their warm-ups.

Impressively, Tunisia have defied the strain of playing while fasting in the better part of friendlies against Portugal and Turkey in what could be a show of their strength in character.

Also staying unbeaten in securing a passage to Russia could have underlined Tunisia’s World Cup priorities.

Now, avoiding defeat against a Spanish side which devastated Argentina 6-1 in March would undoubtedly be a crucial tonic the Tunisians need ahead of the World Cup.

Some teams might not prefer to read much into international friendly match results, but Tunisia’s run of form appears tough to ignore.

Most African teams have previously arrived at the World Cup in top form, much-anticipated to at least reach the semifinals, only to disappoint instead.

But Tunisia left-back Oussama Haddadi is oozing with confidence that his team can pull off upsets.

“We had a good qualifying campaign,” Haddadi said.

“It hasn't been easy but we're preparing well. We know that it won't be simple getting past the first round because we're in a difficult group with England and Belgium, but we'll do everything we can to cause a shock.

“We must not be afraid of other nations. We must be confident, play our game and show the true face of Tunisia.”

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Tunisia captain Wahbi Khazri is expected to feature against Spain after a spell out with injury which at one time made him a doubt for the tournament.

On the four occasions that Tunisia have graced the World Cup finals before, they have never progressed past the group stages.

Their coach Nabil Maloul is one of the only two native African coaches to be in the dugout in Russia, with the other being Senegal’s Aliou Cisse.

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