Australia will be bidding to bounce back from their heavy defeat to France when they continue their World Cup Group D campaign against Tunisia on Saturday.
The Socceroos suffered a 4-1 loss to France in their opening match of the competition on Tuesday, while Tunisia played out a goalless draw with Denmark in their first game of the 2022 tournament.
Tunisia are competing in the finals of the World Cup for the sixth time in their history, and they are looking to reach the knockout round of the competition for the first time.
The African nation failed to win a group game during the 1998, 2002 and 2006 competitions but managed to put a victory on the board last time out in Russia, and they have made a positive start to this tournament, holding a talented Denmark outfit to a goalless draw in their section opener.
Tunisia’s last and indeed toughest game in the group will be against France next Wednesday, so their chances of qualifying for the knockout round could largely hinge on their result against Australia.
Jalel Kadri‘s side beat Mali in the third qualifying round to advance to the finals of the World Cup, and they have actually not lost a competitive match since January.
Tunisia’s performance against Denmark will certainly have given them plenty of encouragement ahead of this match, which will see them face Australia for just the third time, with their only competitive meeting coming in the Confederations Cup back in June 2005, which saw Tunisia record a 2-0 win.
Australia, as mentioned, will enter this match off the back of a 4-1 defeat to world champions France on Tuesday, which has already left them in a difficult position in Group D.
The Socceroos took the lead against Didier Deschamps‘s side in the ninth minute through Craig Goodwin, but France went on to score four times without reply through Adrien Rabiot, Olivier Giroud (two) and Kylian Mbappe, with the result leaving Australia at the bottom of the group.
Graham Arnold‘s side beat United Arab Emirates and then Peru on penalties to secure their spot at the 2022 World Cup, and they then overcame New Zealand in two friendlies at the end of September.
Australia have now been present in each of the last five World Cups, being eliminated in the group stage in their last three participations, winning just once in the process.
The national side did manage to reach the round of 16 back in 2006, though, finishing second in Group F behind Brazil before losing 1-0 to Italy in the first knockout round.
Tunisia have not reported any injury concerns from their competition opener with Denmark, so the bulk of the XI that started that match should again take to the field.
Wahbi Khazri, who is the leading goalscorer in the squad with 24, was not involved in the team’s first game of the tournament, but he is expected to come into the side here.
The 31-year-old could replace Anis Ben Slimane, with Youssef Msakni and Issam Jebali almost certain to retain their spots in the final third of the field.
Manchester United midfielder Hannibal Mejbri was a late substitute against Denmark, meanwhile, and the teenager will be hoping to earn more World Cup minutes here.
As for Australia, head coach Arnold is expected to resist the temptation to shuffle his pack following the defeat to France, as there were positives from the clash with the Blues.
The same XI that took to the field for the first whistle on Tuesday should again feature here, with Mitchell Duke leading the line for the Socceroos.
Mathew Leckie is the leading goalscorer in the squad with 13, and the 31-year-old will again play off the right, with Goodwin, who scored against France, also set to retain his spot.
Stoke City’s Harry Souttar, Celtic’s Aaron Mooy and Middlesbrough’s Riley McGree are also in line to start for Australia on Saturday.
Tunisia possible starting lineup:
Dahmen; Bronn, Meriah, Talbi; Drager, Skhiri, Laidouni, Abdi; Khazri, Jebali, Msakni
Australia possible starting lineup:
Ryan; Atkinson, Souttar, Rowles, Behich; Mooy; Leckie, Irvine, McGree, Goodwin; Duke
This is a really difficult match to call, and it would certainly not be a surprise to see a Tunisia or an Australia victory on Saturday. There is every chance that this will be a tight and cagey affair, though, and we are struggling to separate the two teams, backing a low-scoring draw in the Group D contest.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.