Tunisia's National Soccer Team

Not Shining but Persisting

"Tunisia may not be the shining light of football, but we'll do everything we can to make a good impression," clarified Roger Lemerre, who led the Tunisian football team to victory in the 2004 African Cup of Nations. Tobias Oelmaier reports

Tunisia's Santos, left, is congratulated by teammate Jawhar Mnari after scoring the opening goal during the Confederations Cup Group A soccer match between Australia and Tunisia in Leipzig, Germany June 2005 (photo: AP)
Two of Tunisia's stars, Jawhar Mnari and Adel Chedli, already feel at home at the World Cup stadiums – they play for FC Nuremberg in Germany's first division

​​Tunisia clinched its place in the tournament in dramatic fashion in their final qualifying game against arch-rivals Morocco. Needing just one point to go to Germany, they trailed 2-1 before star midfielder Adel Chedli scored an all-important equaliser.

Tunisia's World Cup debut in 1978 saw them make history. They defeated Mexico 3:1 to become the first African team who ever won a match at a World Cup. They went on to draw 0:0 with Germany, the reigning world champions at the time, but failed to make it past the first round.

Tunisia has appeared at two world cups since then – in 1998 and 2002 – but they haven't yet succeeded in winning another game on the world stage.

Tunisia clinched its place in the 2006 world cup in dramatic fashion in their final qualifying game against arch-rivals Morocco. Needing just one point to go to Germany, they trailed 2-1 before star midfielder Adel Chedli scored an all-important equaliser.

Germany: A place of advantage?

The team hopes that it will change this year in Germany. Two of Tunisia's stars, Jawhar Mnari and Adel Chedli, already feel at home at the World Cup stadiums – they play for FC Nuremberg in Germany's first division. Adel Chedli says: "Tunisia should enjoy a type of second-home advantage throughout the tournament."

"It's common knowledge that a lot of Tunisians live in Germany," Chedli said, "I'm sure they'll support us passionately. With their help, I hope we'll survive the first round and push on to the final."

Tunisia's national eleven are coached by Frenchman Roger Lemerre, who led the team to victory in the 2004 African Cup of Nations. Lemerre says: "If Tunisia is to survive the first round, they need to keep their feet on the ground and focus on the basics."

Football is not philosophy

"Football is a sport where results count," Lemerre said, "there's not much room for philosophy. Players need to be in touch with reality. At any given time they need to be prepared, they need to establish presence on the field, and they need to be adaptable."

Last year's Confederations Cup gave Tunisia a chance to size up the international competition. Lemerre moved on saying: "Tunisia's victory over Australia at the tournament shows the team has learned lessons from past defeats."

Tunisia's hope

"I think Tunisian football has made its mark internationally over the last 10 years, or perhaps even longer" pointed out Lemerre, "there have been good times, and bad times as well. Tunisia may not be the shining light of football, but we'll do everything we can to make a good impression."

Tunisia faces Spain, Ukraine, and Saudi Arabia in Group H of the first round of this year's World Cup. Both the players and fans are hopeful that under Lemerre's leadership, Tunisia will finally have what it takes to go through to the second round of the tournament.

Tobias Oelmaier

© Deutsche Welle 2006

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