Qatar 2022: Tunisia – Team guide, key players and full fixtures

They qualified by topping a group featuring Zambia and Equatorial Guinea (who they always seem to come up against), before winning a two-legged play-off against Mali in the most forgettable manner possible: 1-0 on aggregate, courtesy of an away win in the first leg.

Whatever about the lack of excitement and ambition from them, Tunisia are still one of premier sides in Africa. They’re the third-highest ranked team in the continent, and are inside the world’s top 30.

However, it is a concern that their best players – Youssef Msakni, Wahbi Khazri – are the wrong side of 30, and there is a real dearth of high-quality replacements in attacking areas. In their last five friendlies, Tunisia have used four different options at centre-forward, and none have convinced or nailed down the starting spot.

The history

In 1978, Tunisia became the first African nation to win a match at the World Cup, coming from a goal down to defeat Mexico in Rosario. Since that exhilarating debut, the Carthage Eagles have appeared in four more World Cups, but have only won one more match: their 2-1 triumph over Panama in the last edition in 2018.

Those wins have bookended a history of sorry performances and unremarkable outcomes on the world stage. Of African sides with at least four World Cup qualifications, only Tunisia have yet to advance beyond the Group Stage.

The coach and tactical approach

Coach Jalel Kadri has little by way of pedigree, having spent most of his managerial career bouncing around roles at lower levels of Arab football. However, since stepping in for Mondher Kebaier during the Africa Cup of Nations in January, he has done a serviceable job getting the team where they need to be.

His preferred shape is not far removed from his predecessor’s: a 4-3-3 based on solidity through the middle of the pitch (Kadri does appear to be weighing up the possibility of a 5-3-2, however). Tunisia are clean in their processes without being particularly incisive, but they defend their penalty area well and use their full-backs well in build-up, pushing them high to provide width.

They do not score many goals though, and while some of that is down to a convincing option at centre-forward, it is arguably more to do with the lack of tempo to their possession play. This means they can struggle to break good teams down, and they arguably are more dangerous in transition and on set-pieces.

The squad

This is a largely settled squad, with no real surprises beyond the fact that Kadri has selected four goalkeepers.

Key players

Bundesliga-based midfielder Ellyes Skhiri is central – both literally and figuratively – to all that Tunisia do. From his deep-lying midfield role, the 27-year-old dictates the play for the Carthage Eagles, often dropping between the centre-backs to facilitate build-up.

Youssef Msakni, imaginatively nicknamed ‘the Brazilian’ is a player of considerable technical quality, and acts as the team’s primary creative outlet coming infield from the left flank. At 32, he does not always start, but having missed out due to injury in 2018, there is no doubt he will be extra motivated this time around. In a difficult group, his guile will certainly be needed if Tunisia are to make any sort of impression.

Fans of African club football will also be watching with keen interest the involvement of Esperance midfielder Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane, who is of a more attacking bent and possesses excellent shooting technique.

Young player

Manchester United youngster Hannibal Mejbri is well thought of, and at 19 could be a real joker for Tunisia in Qatar.

It is likely that he starts from the bench, but if he does come on, look for his energy and composure in possession to shine through.

Probable lineup


  • Tunisia v Denmark (Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan; 22 November 2022) 
  • Tunisia v Australia (Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah; 26 November 2022) 
  • Tunisia v France (Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan; 30 November 2022)

Tournament prediction

In light of Tunisia’s poor tournament pedigree, progression was difficult enough coming in. Add in their Group Stage draw, however, and the task goes from difficult to impossible.

Both France and Denmark are widely expected to make strong runs in Qatar, and both teams are chock full of established stars playing in the major leagues in Europe, a luxury Tunisia simply cannot afford. Their quality will prove too much for the Carthage Eagles to handle.

There is, however, the prospect of a win over an underwhelming Australia, so that’s something to aspire to for the North Africans.

Projection: Group Stage exit.