Goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi available for injury-ravaged Tunisia against Panama

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The Tunisians' goalkeeping department is severely depleted with only Aymen Mathlouthi available for Thursday’s Group G closing match

Injury has once more ravaged the Tunisia camp, adding to their goalkeeping woes, with two key defenders out of the match in Saransk.

The Tunisian Football Federation has asked special authorisation from Fifa to allow standby Esperance goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia to join them in Russia, following injury to Farouk Ben Mustapha during training on Tuesday.

The Tunisians were already facing a goalkeeping crisis after first choice Mouez Hassen left the camp soon after injuring his shoulder in their group's opening match 2-1 loss to England.

Fifa rules forbids teams to replace players midway through the tournament, and Ben Cherifia who was initially in coach Nabil Maaloul’s provisional squad before being dropped, was due to arrive in Saransk on Wednesday.

It is not yet clear if the world football governing body will allow Ben Cherifia to be drafted into the squad for the Panama game.

For now, veteran Mathlouthi is the only available goalkeeper for the match in which Tunisia are desperate to register their first World Cup match since 1978.

“Ben Mustapha was hit in the knee and felt severe pain but the MRI performed in the hospital (revealed) that he did not suffer ligament injury but a simple stretch that requires a rest from one week to ten days,” said the team doctor Souheil Chemli in a statement on the Tunisian Football Federation official website.

Also providing a headache for Maaloul is the unavailability of right back Dylan Bronn and centre back Syam Ben Youssef who were forced off injured in the first half of last Saturday’s 5-2 loss to Belgium.

Maaloul was compelled to alter his defence with Bronn being replaced by Hamdi Nagguez in the 24th minute with Leicester City’s Yohan Benalouane coming in for Ben Youssef four minutes before the break.

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Bronn has already left the Tunisia camp and returned to his Belgian Pro League side Gent for further treatment while Ben Youssef of Turkish side Kasimpasa is still with the team but will not take part against Panama.

Injuries to key players has characterised Tunisia’s World Cup with the biggest blow being star forward Youssef Msakni who was injured before the tournament.

Thursday’s match would be the Carthage Eagles’ last shot at salvaging some pride following defeats to England and Belgium that condemned them to a fifth World Cup ending in the group stages.

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