Australia and Tunisia are hungry to snatch a rare World Cup victory when they meet at Al Janoub Stadium on Saturday, knowing they could take a huge step toward the knockout stage.
After Australia was torched 4-1 by France, Graham Arnold will look to rouse his side for a clash with a Tunisia side who revealed in having huge support against Denmark, earning a 0-0 draw against the European Championship semi-finalists.
That result for Tunisia – just a second clean sheet for the team in 16 matches at the World Cup – has raised hopes of advancing beyond the group stage for the first time, at what is their sixth World Cup.
“We want to get past this round, this is our main objective, and we’re quite optimistic about achieving this goal,” said coach Jalel Kadri.
It is a lip-smacking opportunity for them against a Socceroos side that took the lead against France before being blown away by the firepower of the World Cup holders.
Australia has lost 11 of their 17 games at the World Cup (65%) and has failed to win in their last seven outings on this stage, their longest winless streak in the competition.
Tunisia had just 38.7% of the ball against Denmark and their passing accuracy in the opposition half was a disappointing 55.4% in the nil-nil draw.
Meanwhile, Australia had just 37.6% of possession against France, and the outcome of that game means they have now managed only one clean sheet in 17 World Cup games.
Kadri said: “We’re playing a strong group and today we have one point, and we should invest this energy we have in the next match as well.”
He said of the crowd’s raucous support for his team: “It gives us a great lift and we’re looking forward to seeing the fans continue to do that.”
Australia midfielder Jackson Irvine, who plays club football in Germany for St Pauli, wants to see a response after the France result.
He said: “To feel disappointed… is a huge testament to the mentality of the group and that desire to win and get results, and it’s something we have in us all the time and continue to have to go into these next couple of huge games.”
Citing the “very different opposition”, Irvine predicted: “The game will flow differently.”
Tunisia vs Australia Team News
The Carthage Eagles may choose to unleash Hannibal Mejbri from the start, the Manchester United midfielder on loan at Birmingham having come off the bench against Denmark.
Naim Sliti and Wahbi Khazri are also hoping to come into the attack with no fresh injury worries.
Australia also has a full squad to pick from. Their young star, Garang Kuol, is also vying for a starting berth.
Tunisia: Issam Jebali
Jebali had Tunisia’s best opportunities in the Denmark game, with his three-goal chances being worth a total of 0.53 expected goals (xG) out of a team total of 0.92. Denmark’s Andreas Cornelius (0.93) was the only player on the pitch with a higher xG score, having missed a golden close-range chance to win the game.
Tunisia will hope for Jebali to be sharper with his finishing against Australia. Kadri has Wahbi Khazri waiting in the wings, promising he will “get his chance”, with many surprised the Montpellier man played no part against Denmark.
Australia: Mat Ryan
Goalkeeper Ryan and winger Mathew Leckie could both make their eighth World Cup starts for Australia, setting a new national record at the finals.
Ryan suffered against France as Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud and co. made his day a misery, and he will be looking to earn a rare World Cup shutout this time around.
Tunisia is given a 47.3% chance of winning this one, while Australia has only a 25.6% prospect of snatching the three points, according to our prediction model.
The draw, therefore, is a 27.1% possibility, but with the stakes so high, victory is imperative for both teams. A draw, you might imagine, would likely be a crushing blow to each team’s hopes of reaching the last 16 stages.
This will be just the third meeting between Tunisia and Australia – Australia won 3-0 in a friendly in 1997, before Tunisia won 2-0 at the 2005 Confederations Cup.
Tunisia To win this match.