Tunisia may be out of contention at the World Cup but the African nation still have unfinished business as they try to snap a 40-year drought against Panama.
Back-to-back defeats to Belgium (5-2) and England (2-1) has consigned Tunisia to an early exit in Group G, alongside Thursday’s opponents Panama.
Tunisia are winless in their last 13 World Cup matches, with four draws and nine losses, since winning their first ever World Cup match in 1978 against Mexico.
Hamdi Nagguez has revealed Tunisia are determined to end their long-standing losing streak as they bow out of this year’s event in Saransk.
“We played two matches against better teams than us, as we were in a difficult group,” defender Nagguez said.
“Now, we should focus on the last match and win against Panama and stop this run of 40 years without winning a World Cup match.”
— FEPAFUT (@fepafut) June 26, 2018
Tunisia, who conceded a last-gasp goal against England in their opener, were outclassed by Belgium last time out.
They are counting the cost of their efforts during the campaign too, with Dylan Bronn (ankle), Syam Ben Youssef (knee) and Mouez Hassen (shoulder) suffering World Cup-ending injuries.
Defender Ben Youssef, however, has decided to remain with the team until the end of the tournament.
Reflecting on the World Cup as a whole, he said: “We couldn’t represent Africa well. Some things went against us, like the early penalty against Belgium, as well as the injuries we suffered.
“But we have to admit that our opponents were better, and have a lot of experience. We’ve already learned a lot of things during this tournament.”
Newcomers Panama are also preparing for their farewell outing following their 6-1 drubbing at the hands of a merciless England side on Sunday.
It has been a learning curve for the CONCACAF nation, who denied the United States a spot at the World Cup, and head coach Hernan Dario Gomez has been delighted with the experience.
— FEPAFUT (@fepafut) June 26, 2018
“I’ve had to play against two spectacular opponents. But that’s absolutely fantastic because that’s how you learn and draw conclusions and that’s how you can tell where your team is,” Gomez said.
“There are tremendous teams here at the World Cup, all with tremendous physical fitness, with lots of tactics and good technique, good pressing and organisation, speed on the pitch.
“I’ve really enjoyed watching the games at this World Cup and been very, very happy to be here. It’s just such a pity that we’ve been knocked out.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Panama – Felipe Baloy
Felipe Baloy will live long in the memory of Panama fans. While the debutants are set for a group-stage exit, Baloy scored Panama’s first ever World Cup goal at the age of 37 years and 120 days. The veteran could add to that tally against Tunisia.
Tunisia – Wahbi Khazri
No player has been involved in more World Cup goals for Tunisia than Wahbi Khazri (two), who both scored and assisted in their defeat to Belgium last time out.
KEY OPTA STATS
– This will be the first ever meeting between Panama and Tunisia.
– Tunisia have previously faced just one CONCACAF side at a World Cup finals, winning 3-1 against Mexico in 1978 – their first ever World Cup match.
– Panama have conceded nine goals from 13 shots on target faced so far at the World Cup.
– The last time a nation lost each of their first three ever World Cup games – as Panama could do – was in 2006, with both Togo and Serbia-Montenegro doing so.
– Tunisia have already conceded more goals at this World Cup (seven) than they did in any of their previous four tournaments – their previous high was six conceded in 2006.
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