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Tunisia striker Ben Youssef to deputise Mathlouthi in goal against Panama

6:36 PM GMT+8 28/06/2018
Fakhreddine Ben Youssef Okay Yokuslu Turkey Tunusia
Tunisia will have striker Fakhreddine Ben Youssef as understudy to goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi in Thursday’s closing Group G match against Panama

Following tournament-ending injuries to first and second choice goalkeepers Mouez Hassen and Farouk Ben Mustapha, veteran Mathlouthi has been left as the only fit goalie.

Tunisia have selected Ben Youssef as Mathlouthi's deputy after Fifa declined their request for special authorisation to allow standby goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia to join their camp, with the Esperance man having already arrived in Russia on Wednesday.

Fifa rules forbids teams to replace players midway through the tournament.

Technically, Tunisia need two goalkeepers on the match sheet and Ben Mustapha's name will appear on it, although will not be fit to play, with forward Ben Youssef of Saudi Pro League club Al-Ettifaq in effect acting as the reserve goalkeeper.

“It is true we have two goalkeepers injured and this is a dilemma for us,” Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul said.

Now seeking third-place consolation with victory against Panama, Tunisia will have to pick themselves up after falling 2-1 to England and a 5-2 defeat to Belgium to reel out the tournament.

At stake for them on Thursday would be ending their World Cup victory drought, having last won a match at the tournament way back in 1978.

In five World Cup editions they have participated in, the Carthage Eagles have never advanced past the group stages and the morale-sapping defeats to England and Belgium left Maaloul battling to drill confidence back into his demotivated squad.

“There is no doubt it is a difficult game (against Panama) because my team is feeling down,” said Maaloul.

“I tried to boost their spirits but this was difficult. Some of my players have not overcome their last defeat. All are playing for the first time in the World Cup and they want to have a positive result for this to be a great memory for them.

“We need to score goals, I hope we can do so tomorrow. We want to win but the players feel down. I have thanked them. They could not have done more. They have done everything.

“We have seen an improvement in the past two days... We are talking constantly to the players to lift their spirits, to boost their morale."

What makes their task more demanding is that they face a Panama side eager to record their first World Cup victory in their maiden appearance at the tournament.

Missing key defenders Dylan Bronn and centre back Syam Ben Youssef, who were forced off injured in the first half of the loss to Belgium, has not helped Tunisia's cause either.