Tunisia and Australia kick off the first Saturday morning of World Cup football at the Al Janoub Stadium.
Both nations came into the competition as rank outsiders in a group which also boasts world champions France and Euro 2020 semi-finalists Denmark. However, Tunisia held the Danes to a riotously spirited 0-0 draw.
Australia took the lead against France but could only cling to that advantage for 18 minutes. “That’s why they’re world champions,” Graham Arnold wearily conceded after his side’s 4-1 loss.
Here’s everything you need to know about this group D clash.
Tunisia vs Australia H2H Results (Last Five Games)
Current Form (Last Five Games)
Tunisia team news
Tunisia’s backup goalkeeper Bechir Ben Said overcame a muscular strain which threatened to hamper his involvement on the eve of the tournament. Although, the US Monastir shot-stopper only warmed the bench against Denmark.
Jalel Kadri should have all 26 members of the Carthage Eagles squad to select from this weekend.
Tunisia Starting 11 (3-4-2-1): Dahmen; Bronn, Meriah, Talbi; Drager, Skhiri, Laidouni, Abdi; Slimane, Msakni; Jebali.
Bench: Ben Said, Hassen, Balbouli, Ghandri, Ifa, Maaloul, Kechrida, Sassi, Ben Romdhane, Chaaleli, Hannibal, Sliti, Jaziri, Khazri, Khenissi.
Australia team news
Australia had to manage various injuries on the eve of the tournament, confirming the departure of Martin Boyle on the opening day of the World Cup. Marco Tilio replaced the Hibernian winger but didn’t get off the bench against France.
Arnold admitted that he has “the option of obviously changing players, and making sure we get some fresh ones out there”. Whether he opts for a raft of alterations ahead of a key group stage fixture remains to be seen.
Australia Starting 11 (4-2-3-1): Ryan; Atkinson, Souttar, Rowles, Behich; Mooy, Irvine; Leckie, Hrustic, Goodwin; Duke.
Bench: Redmayne, Vukovic, Degenek, Karacic, Wright, Deng, King, McGree, Devlin, Baccus, Maclaren, Kuol, Mabil, Cummings, Tilio.
More than 30,000 vociferous Tunisian voices roared on their nation against Denmark. Kadri lauded the mental lift the fans provided but also stressed: “Tactically and physically we did well too.”
Australia’s Arnold lamented that France “were just so much bigger and faster and stronger than us”. Tunisia’s rugged display, enhanced by their travelling support, suggests they may also prove to be a physical mismatch for the Socceroos.
In a fixture both would have targeted as a prime opportunity for all three points, Tunisia may have enough to knock Arnold’s “boxing kangaroos” out of the tournament.
Prediction: Tunisia 2-1 Australia