Unlike a lot of teams in this competition, Tunisia certainly don’t have any question marks in goal. They’ll be led by the highly influential Balbouli who is one of the best keepers in Africa. Watch out for him making a number of reflex saves in the tournament. At the back, they are likely to go with three central defenders the most notable of whom is Aymen Abdennour. The ex Toulouse man, now at Valencia has been a rock solid player for a number of years and should marshall them well. Caen centre back Syam Ben Youssef could be another to feature in defence but he’s not played a lot this season and suffered a few injuries. Left wing back Ali Maaloul is a good technical player but there aren’t any other defenders who stand out.
Central midfield doesn’t look particularly strong. The likes of Ferjani Sassi and Ben Amor will likely feature here, with maybe newly capped Lille man Naim Sliti getting some minutes as well. Two key players for Tunisia will be wingers Wahbi Khazri & Youssef Msakni.The former is probably the most high profile player in their squad and both have strong technical attributes that can cause plenty of problems to the opposition. Khazri has lacked minutes for Sunderland this season though and also suffered a slight injury in a recent friendly match, so he doesn’t head into the tournament in great shape. Upfront, either Ahmed Akaichi, Saber Khelifa or Hamza Lahmar are options, but they don’t possess a striker who will strike too much fear in any defences. Nevertheless, the supply line into the mixer should be quite decent.
Draw & outlook
Tunisia breezed through qualifying, albeit in an easy group. The fact that they are currently top of their World Cup Qualifying group demonstrates that they are no mugs though. The two teams they’ve beaten in that are Guinea & Libya but some much sterner tests await them in this competition. The problem is they’ve landed both Senegal & Algeria, who are two of the bigger favourites to win the African Nations outright. It looks like they’ll be employing a 3-5-2 formation and could be hard to break down at times. The ‘Eagles of Carthage’ are coached by veteran Henryk Kasperczak who has just about managed every African country, he’s been around the block that much! If you’re after a dark horse, then perhaps some might fancy Tunisia to go well. Most of their players are based in Africa which can be a positive in a competition like this. There’s ability in all areas of the field but I do wonder if they have the consistency or strong physique to really match up to the big sides. Qualifying from the group could be difficult. They are also in a tough section of the draw so any long term progression deep into the tournament is unlikely.
Group prediction: 3rd