How Tunisia are plotting to ruin England's World Cup

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The two countries will face off in Volgograd in June, and Tunisia's Nabil Maaloul is confident that his side are capable of springing an upset

A huge test awaits Tunisia upon their return to the 2018 World Cup from a 12-year absence as they begin with a clash against England, but coach Nabil Maaloul is hoping his side can spring a surprise and damage the Three Lions' hopes early on in the global tournament. 

Tunisia, who last featured in the competition in 2006, secured their place in this year's tournament by finishing a point ahead of DR Congo in a thrilling end to the African qualifiers and were drawn in Group G, alongside Belgium and Panama.

Maaloul took over the job for a second time in 2017 and was crucial to the nation's feat, but he is hoping his side can take another step forward as he has Gareth Southgate's England in his sights. 

"All matches will be very important, but it is sure that the one against England will be very difficult," the coach explained to Goal.

"Against them, we will try to impose our game and impose our style. We will try to counter this English team, which has players with a lot of quality. And inshallah (God wills it), it's going to be okay.

"Can Tunisia make it past the first round?  Inshallah. We will do everything to make it happen. It's our aim, not only a dream. 

"Even if we know that it will be very difficult because we will play against very big nations. A team like Belgium is one of the best in the world right now. 

"The English too, they have grown enormously in football. They have changed their mentality. We know for a fact that it will be difficult. But it's possible, in any case."

Maaloul also gave an insight into the work carried out behind the scenes in the Tunisia camp, affirming that preparation for the World Cup has already begun.

"We started analysing our opponents just after the end of the draw on December 2. Once we knew their identity, we began to study them and we are ready," he added.

"But the season is not over yet. There can be unforeseen events, injuries that see other players called up for these three nations. But, overall, I think we are ready.

"The two games in March, they are important for many reasons. First, we will play against two good football nations. First will be Iran, who are the first Asian country to have qualified for the World Cup. They played very good qualifying matches, conceding only three goals. 

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"And then there will also be Costa Rica. A team that looks a lot like Panama. We tried to get as close as possible to our opponents in the first round. With the approach of the World Cup, we will then have other matches against Portugal, Turkey and Spain

"The two games in March will also be important because we will have new players who are playing abroad for the first time, namely [Mouez] Hassan, [Siefeddine] Khaoui, [Elyes] Skhiri and [Yohan] Benalouane. It will be their first match and we will try to integrate them little by little with us.

"Is the World Cup coming too fast or too slowly? Not too fast, not too slowly. We are well prepared and we must do everything possible to be able to succeed in this World Cup. We know we are in a very difficult group, with England, Belgium and Panama. We will try to get closer to their level and for that we must leave nothing to chance."

England will take on Tunisia on June 18, with the Volgograd Arena providing the backdrop for the nation's World Cup opener.

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