World Cup Appearances: 4
AFCON Titles: 1
The Tunisians come into the tournament carrying the weight
of their shock exit from the World Cup due to pitiful performances against
Mozambique on the last day of qualifying.
The loss of their World Cup ticket
and the 1-0 scoreline doesn’t indicate just how painful this was for Carthage
Eagles fans who had to suffer through what was undoubtedly their team’s worst
outing in the last two years or perhaps ever if you take into account the importance of the match.
Portuguese coach Humberto Coelho and the entire technical
staff ended up losing their positions after the humiliation and the Tunisian
Football Federation succumbed to public pressure to appoint the successful
Faouzi Benzarti who has the difficult task of changing the approach of the
overly conservative Carthage Eagles in a very limited amount of time.
Tunisia are in group D alongside Cameroon, Gabon, and Zambia
at this upcoming edition of the African Cup of Nations.
Tunisia started off their qualifiers with two successive
wins over Kenya and Mozambique and then drew at home against Nigeria in a match
where they dominated possession but were unable to find much depth in attack,
let alone shots on goal.
However, the results combined with others in the group
were enough to secure them a place in Angola 2010 halfway through their
They then traveled to Abuja and emerged with a dramatic 2-2
draw against the Super Eagles and looked to be on their way to South Africa
with only two matches left against the Harmabee Stars and the Mambas but their
final match proved to be their unraveling as they came crashing down to earth
in Maputo on November 14th.
Faouzi Benzarti may not be very well known outside of Tunisia
and North Africa but he is the country’s most successful coach in domestic
One thing that sets him apart from other managers of the Carthage
Eagles such as Roger Lemerre and Humberto Coelho is that he favors attacking
play and will certainly institute changes in the team to improve fluidity and
efficiency that has been sorely lacking in that sector.
That is the main reason
the overwhelming majority of Tunisians were clamoring for him to be appointed
as soon as the team fell out of World Cup contention. Even though he doesn’t
have very much time on his hands, he has the advantage of knowing the ins and
outs of Tunisian football better than any foreign manager would and is already
familiar with the players and what needs to change for things to improve.
He guided Libya in the second round of World Cup qualifying
and notched some very impressive results in a group that included Gabon, Ghana,
and Lesotho. His team famously beat Ghana 1-0 in Tripoli, finished tied on
points with the Blackstars and Panthers, and only missed out on the final
qualifying round due to an inferior goal difference than their West African rivals.
Furthermore, he’s been waiting for his chance to coach his country ever since he lead the
team for little over 24 hours during the 1994 African Cup where he came on as
caretaker coach in the last group game once Youssef Zouaoui was sacked.
Ousemma Darragi (Esperance Sportive de Tunis)
The Esperance midfield maestro has enjoyed a meteoric rise
to fame in Tunisia thanks to a combination of grace, skill, and vision that has
drawn interest from many European teams.
However, his club is refusing to sell
for the moment because their goal is to win the African Champions League next
year and they know that doing it without their best passer and most creative
element will be a tall task.
The youngster has already provided Tunisians with
some special moments in a national team jersey too, none of them bigger than
his stunning finish to tie the game between his country and Nigeria. The shot
came in the 89th minute and was taken from an outrageous angle with
a high degree of difficulty but Darragi finished as if there was nothing to it.
Zouhaier Dhaouadi (Club Africain)
“Zou” wasn’t getting the playing time he deserved under
Humberto Coelho but that is likely set to change under Benzarti who will
probably give a much fairer chance to players plying their trade in the
domestic league. The 21 year old left winger is a full of pace and trickery.
Plus, he is a real threat on crosses from open play and set pieces.
Although a second African Cup of Nations title would go a long ways to healing
the wounds of missing the first African World Cup, a more realistic goal for
Tunisia is to get into the second round for starters because they have been
drawn in what is arguably the second toughest group (Cameroon, Zambia, and
Any step after that would be considered a bonus but some supporters are
calling on the players to aim for nothing less than the title to make up for
the disappointing manner in which they were disqualified from the upcoming
matter how good a coach Benzarti is, it is hard to imagine that he will be able
to address all the issues within the Carthage Eagles setup with such little
preparation time. Still, one thing is for certain: His intimidating presence
on the sidelines will mean that his players will fight tooth for every inch on
the field to restore the dignity and pride of Tunisian football.
knowing his history of overachieving, I see him shocking a lot of unsuspecting
viewers by taking this team to the semi finals with a win over Nigeria or Egypt
in the quarters.
Did You Know?
Tunisia was the first African team to win a game at the
World Cup, coming from behind to beat Mexico 3-1 in their inaugural match at
the event in Argentina in 1978. Also, besides for their 2004 African Cup of
Nations title which they won on home soil, they were runners up in 1965 and
Rami Ayari, Goal.com