Tunisia set to test Belgium’s cup-winning credentials
NIZHNY NOVGOROD – Reuters
Roberto Martinez’s star-studded squad emerged as 3-0 winner in its opening Group G game in Sochi on June18 but will likely find Tunisia a far more robust and defensively astute opponent when they meet at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow.
It will mean the creative acumen of captain Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne will be vital if Belgium is to move closer to the second round and effectively end Tunisia’s tournament.
Both Premier League standouts took a while to get going in June 18’s match but their obvious ability eventually made the requisite impact.
“The first game at any tournament is always a little tough and the heat also tired us out but after rest we’ll be ready to roll again,” Chelsea playmaker Hazard said in the build-up to the weekend’s clash.
De Bruyne set up the second goal for Romelu Lukaku with a characteristically innovative pass and the Manchester City midfielder said on June 20 he saw that as his primary task at the tournament.
“I have to get the strikers into situations where they can score. If I do that, then I know I’m doing a good job,” he told reporters as Belgium was given a surprise day off.
Tunisia has a well-earned reputation in African football for its ability to close down matches through a combination of bloody-minded defense, time-wasting tactics and gamesmanship.
Against England, it hardly made any attacking effort once it equalized, but to stay in contention Tunisia will need to end a 12-match winless streak at the World Cup finals, stretching back 40 years.
“I think we will have Belgium’s respect and we have our own ambitions of getting past the first round which Tunisia has never done before,” coach Nabil Maaloul said.