England open up their World Cup campaign tonight in a clash with Tunisia in Volgograd.
There’s an optimistic buzz about the Three Lions squad heading into the first game. But Tunisia won’t be there to just make up the numbers.
The Eagles of Carthage are a decent outfit in their own right and sit 21st in the FIFA World Rankings. Unfortunately for Nabil Maaloul, his side are without star player and key performer Youssef Msakni, who was ruled out through injury.
In the playmaker’s absence, the Ladbrokes News crew take a look at the aces that’ll need to step up.
Arguably the most instantly recognisable name in the Tunisia squad, Khazri is still actually owned by League One side, Sunderland.
The attacking midfielder was brought to the Stadium of Light when they were a Premier League outfit. However, after a vibrant start to his Black Cats’ career, he fell down the pecking order.
The 27-year-old spent last season on-loan at Rennes and impressed once more in Ligue 1. He’ll look to find space between the defensive midfield and centre-half positions, rotating centrally and drifting off the wings.
Khazri also possesses pretty decent set-piece ability, too.
After sealing qualification for the finals, Tunisia went on a recruitment drive in Ligue 1. The nation has a huge diaspora in France, and one player who nailed his colours to the mast was Troyes ace, Khaoui.
The 23-year-old was on-loan there from Olympique Marseille. And despite Troyes’ relegation, the youngster did well, scoring five goals and assisting two more.
He’s a dangerous left-footed attacking midfielder who plays centrally, but also on the right of a front three. He’s comfortable on both feet and looks to go on mazy dribbles.
Maaloul will be dependent on his midfield to do the damage against England. And to complete the trio of dangers, it’s Naim Sliti Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker will have to keep an eye on.
The explosive left-sided attacker is like a mixture of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Xherdan Shaqiri. He’s diminutive but powerfully built and can burst away from defenders in an instant.
The 25-year-old currently plies his trade in Ligue 1 with FCO Dijon, on-loan from Lille.
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