Tunisia earned a deserved point against Euro 2020 semi-finalists Denmark to kick-off their World Cup campaign in Group C, and could even have had all three with slightly better luck.
The Danes, who have billed by many as dark horses in Qatar, disappointed on the whole.
Tunisia were more loudly supported inside the stadium and got off to a bright start that seemed to catch the Danes a little cold. The first big chance went their way too, with Mohamed Drager’s shot taking a deflection off Andreas Christensen and only narrowly flashing wide of the post.
Denmark seemed to finally catch their breath and get a foothold in the game around 20 minutes in. There was a decent chance for Joachim Andersen at a set-piece, while Christian Eriksen also flashed a dangerous ball into the penalty area.
Tunisia did have the ball in the net not long after as Issam Jebali raced onto a long through ball and finished past Kasper Schmeichel. But the flag went up as Jebali turned to celebrate, with replays showing he had been around a yard beyond the last defender when he began his run.
After Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Aissa Laidouni had traded efforts, the best chance of the first half also went the way of Jebali. But Schmeichel channelled the spirit of his father to spread his body as wide as possible and palm the ball behind for a corner as Jebali attempted a dinked finish.
Another offside flag chalked off a goal early in the second half, this time for Denmark. Substitute Mikkel Damsgaard had been beyond the last line of the defence in the build-up, rendering Andreas Skov Olsen’s finish at the second time of asking meaningless.
The Tunisia goal lived a charmed life during a brief spell in the second half, which saw Aymen Dahmen make a flying save to deny Eriksen. From the resultant corner, Mathias Jensen’s back-post travelled agonisingly across the goal, with fellow sub Andreas Cornelius somehow managing to then head it onto the post from virtually on the line.
Substitutions and yellow cards disrupted the rhythm of the final quarter of the contest but it was still pretty end to end without much in the way of clear chances.
Dahmen, who had been great all game, survived a nervous moment in stoppage time when he did just enough to parry a swirling cross-cum-shot, while Tunisian hearts were also in mouths when the referee was waved over to the pitchside monitor to review a potential penalty. The ball had dropped onto the arms of Yassine Meriah. But the official decided there wasn’t enough in it.
GK: Kasper Schmeichel – 7/10 – Made one of the best World Cup saves you’re ever likely to see late in the first half.
CB: Joachim Andersen – 5/10 – Had a chance to score in the first half and could have been better on the ball.
CB: Simon Kjaer (C) – 6/10 – Had a tough time against Jebali but just about held his own. Sacrificed for tactical reasons.
CB: Andreas Christensen – 6/10 – Saw a lot of the ball and didn’t often lose it. Relieved to see a deflection off him just miss the target.
RWB: Rasmus Kristensen – 5/10 – Disappointing that he didn’t create more or really take the game to Tunisia.
CM: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg – 6/10 – Hardly gave the ball away and forced Dahmen into a save from distance.
CM: Thomas Delaney – 5/10 – Forced off injured at the end of the first half.
CM: Christian Eriksen – 6/10 – Put a few dangerous balls into the box.
LWB: Joakim Maehle – 5/10 – Grew more into the game after a quiet opening 20 minutes. Crossing wasn’t really on point.
ST: Andreas Skov Olsen – 6/10 – Often seemed to take up good positions and even had the ball in the net, but was denied by an offside flag.
ST: Kasper Dolberg – 5/10 – Didn’t see that much of the ball and missed the target with both his attempted shots.
SUB: Mikkel Damsgaard (45+1′ for Delaney) – 6/10
SUB: Mathias Jensen (65′ for Kjaer) – 6/10
SUB: Andreas Cornelius (65′ for Dolberg) – 5/10
SUB: Jesper Lindstrom (65′ for Olsen) – 5/10
Manager: Kasper Hjulmand – 5/10 – Went heavy on the substitutions relatively early in the second half to try and improve what was a sluggish start and a lack of incisive quality.
GK: Aymen Dahmen – 8/10 – Did everything that was asked of him to keep a clean sheet. Made four saves overall.
CB: Dylan Bronn – 7/10 – Passed the ball forward well to try and get Tunisia onto the attack.
CB: Yassine Meriah – 7/10- Repelled everything that came his way. Survived a stoppage time handball incident that was flagged by VAR.
CB: Montassar Talbi – 7/10 – A similar story to Meriah. Made himself physically difficult to play against.
RWB: Mohamed Drager – 8/10 – Got forward to support the attack really well and was an obvious threat. Defended well too.
CM: Ellyes Skhiri – 7/10 – It was important that he not lose the ball cheaply in areas Denmark could capitalise and he never did.
CM: Aissa Laidouni – 8/10 – Enjoyed a strong game where he seemed to be everywhere. More composure could have resulted in a goal.
LWB: Ali Abdi – 7/10 – Covered plenty of ground up and down the flank.
AM: Anis Slimane – 5/10 – Struggled to get invovled in open play. Took Tunisia’s corners while he was on the pitch.
AM: Youssef Msakni (c) – 6/10 – Shooting radar was a little off.
ST: Issam Jebali – 8/10 – Worked the Denmark back three hard for 80 minutes. Had the ball in the net but was flagged offside and forced a world class Schmeichel save.
SUB: Naim Sliti (67′ for Slimane) – /10 –
SUB: Hannibal Mejbri (80′ for Jebali) – 6/10
SUB: Taha Tassine Khenissi (80′ for Msakni)
SUB: Wajdi Kechrida (88′ for Drager) – N/A
SUB: Ferjani Sassi (88′ for Laidouni) – N/A
Manager: Jalel Kadri – 8/10 – Took a much more considered approach than his opposite number and trusted his starters for longer. The game plan worked exactly as intended.