3252: World Cup History:Tunisia
by : Sam Cullen
Tunisia's world cup debut came back in 1978 in Argentina, where they were the only African side in the competition, which was still only comprised of 16 teams.
Their first game was on June 2nd 1978 where they comprehensively beat the 1970 quarter finalists Mexico 3-1. They were then defeated by the slender margin of a Grzegorz Lato goal against Poland and despite a credible draw against holders West Germany, the Tunisians were on the first plane home as they finished 3rd in Group B.
The Eagles of Carthage, surely one of the best nicknames in the football universe, then endured a 20 year old wait before qualification was achieved. By then the stature of African football had been enhanced by Cameroon's passage to the quarter finals in Italia '90 and Nigeria's impressive displays in USA '94. Placed in a tough group against competition veterans England, Romania and Columbia always made the task an uphill struggle for the relative novices to the international scene and they finished bottom of their group after defeats to both England and Columbia. The Eagles didn’t depart from France entirely empty handed as they took home with them a decent 1-1 draw with group winners Romania.
Four years later, they suffered the bad luck of being drawn in a group with the co-hosts, Japan, with Russia and Belgium making up the numbers. On paper this seemed an easier drawn than ’98, as Russia were no longer the force of years gone by and Belgium's performances were erratic. However they once again found the competition a bridge too far and finished bottom of their group, after defeats by Japan and Russia and a solitary draw against Belgium.
Drawn in a group with Spain, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine it again seems unlikely they will progress past the group stages. That said, who would have predicted Senegal's ascent to the quarter finals 4 years back. And perhaps, more topically, who would have predicted Hannibal would get his elephants over the alps?
6 June 2006