DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Expect “TUN-is, TUN-is, TUN-is” chants that will echo around Al Janoub Stadium as Tunisia enjoy overwhelming home support as they defeat in each team’s second game at the World Cup vs Australia on Saturday.
Tunisia, one of four Arab teams at the inaugural World Cup in the Middle East, arguably had the loudest fans in the first round as they drew 0-0 with EURO semi-finalists Denmark.
And the support doesn’t just come from Tunisians. Fans with Palestinian flags follow Tunisia, and there are also supporters of the team from Egypt and Algeria.
Tunisia’s team bus was besieged by red-clad fans on arrival in Qatar last week.
“We know the value of our Tunisian fans in Doha and the Tunisian diaspora,” said coach Jalel Kadri. “It gives us a strong morale boost.”
Both sides will have higher expectations after Australia beat holders France 4-1 in their Group D opener.
All four of France’s goals came from attacks from the flanks, three of them with a header.
“Obviously conceding three goals from distance is a very clear lesson for us to learn,” said Australia midfielder Jackson Irvine. “Of course we have to deal better with the crosses.”
France leads the group with three points, followed by Tunisia and Denmark with one point each and Australia with no point.
Tunisia are looking to get out of the group stage for the first time in their sixth World Cup appearance, while Australia have only finished in the last 16 once, in 2006, in five previous trips to football’s greatest event.
“The pressure is a bit higher because Australia has nothing to lose now. It’s like a final for them,” said Tunisia defender Mohamed Dräger. “We have to be ready like (Tuesday). With the same spirit and the same focus, we can achieve something.”
Tunisia’s spirit is embodied in fighting midfielder Aïssa Laïdouni, who was named player of the match in his first World Cup match of his career against Denmark.
Laïdouni set the tone in the first minute, snatching the ball from Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen with an aggressive sliding tackle – then stood up, shaking his arms menacingly and motioning for the crowd to cheer even more.
“It’s important to go into the game with a lot of determination,” said Laïdouni. “This is a World Cup, it’s not a small competition. … It’s also important to show (to the fans) that we are so determined.”
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