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World Cup 2018 Ends in Joy for the Terrific Tunisians

World Cup 2018 Ends in Joy for the Terrific Tunisians

Panama 1-2 Tunisia

It’s oddly fitting that one of the final two games of the World Cup’s group stages was a grand duel between giants that will affect their chances at winning the World Cup 2018. Meanwhile, the other one was a melee of minnows that would bear little to the outcome of the tournament regardless of the result.

However, that doesn’t mean that Panama and Tunisia were just going to quietly fade into the night and let all of the spotlight head to Kaliningrad!

The crowd saw goals and fantastic attacking football from both nations, and the crowd was sure that one of the two would emerge victorious.

Tunisia eventually took home the three points, leaving Panama at the bottom of Group G with no points to their name. However, they can be proud that they provided much better World Cup 2018 highlights than that snoozer of a football game that was played elsewhere.

Highlights of the game

The game started slow and both sides struggled to get things going offensively. Ellyes Skhiri invited the wrath of match official Nawaf Shukralla after violating the rules in battling for the ball in the third minute. Panama weren’t able to capitalise on the subsequent free kick.

Tunisia used a lot of direct lob passes to try and catch the defence-heavy 4-5-1 formation employed by Hernan Gomez. While they have been able to poke the defence of Los Canaleros multiple times throughout the opening minutes, they found it hard to even threaten Jaime Penedo.

The Carthage Eagles were able to really threaten Panama in the nineteenth minute when Rami Bedoui got the corner ball and headed it to the bottom-left corner of the goalmouth. However, nothing came out of the goal as Penedo easily took control of the ball.

Panama opened the scoring on 34 minutes. Jose Rodriguez got the ball within the 25-yard box after a brilliant run from the left wing by the Panama midfield. He powered the ball into the net, which bounced off Yassine Meriah. The deflected ball drifted to the net, and the off-guard Aymen Mathiouthi didn’t have much choice but watch the ball go into the net.

Tunisia were almost able to get even with Panama at the end tail-end of the first half when Wahbi Khazri fired multiple shot attempts at goal. However, Penedo managed a double save and Roman Torres cleared the loose ball.

The drive shown by Khazri infected the entire Tunisian squad, and they started the second half roaring. They fought for possession and hounded the Panamanian defence with attack after attack.
Their persistence finally bore fruit when the equaliser came for Tunisia. Khazri had the ball after a great run from their half, and he passed it on to Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. Ben Youssef fired a first-time shot towards the back of the net. Penedo was rendered helpless as Panama’s defence didn’t clog the passing lanes enough.

Khazri and Ben Youssef almost immediately scored another goal in the 53rd minute, but frantic defending from Panama stopped things from getting worse. It was also at this moment that Torres was taken off the pitch for sustaining an injury.

Mathiouthi pulled off heroics for the Tunisian fans by pulling off a double save of his own. A promising Panama run saw the ball get dangerously close to the box. He went off his line to save the ball with his face. When the ball was poorly cleared, his mug was once again used as a third hand to stop a rebound from heading into the goal.

With Tunisia short on keepers ahead of the game, Mathiouthi’s winces gave fans a nervous chill. Thankfully, No 16 was ready to see the game through.

The Carthage Eagles took the lead on the 66th minute when Oussama Haddadi made a great run to the left side of the goal. Once he attracted the attention of the Panamanian defence, he made a lucky low cross to Khazri, who coolly slotted the ball into an empty net.

Yoel Barcenas scored a beautiful finesse goal for Panama, but Luis Tejada’s foul prior to the goal disallowed it. That was a regrettable miss for Los Canaleros as the game ended 2-1 for Tunisia.

Key statistics

Tunisia showed their class befitting of their FIFA ranking in comparison to Panama. They had 64% of the ball through 90 minutes of play. They also had more shots on target and took more free kicks and corners.

Nabil Maaloul must also be commended for leading a disciplined Tunisia team. They didn’t allow Panama any corners as the defenders always kicked the ball towards the side.
Tunisia won their first group stage match since 1978 in Argentina. They didn’t win a single group stage game in 1998, 2002 and 2006.

This loss ends Panama’s first-ever run at the World Cup finals with a losing record. They allowed 11 goals in three group games, including that humiliating defeat they endured at the hands of England.

However, I don’t think the nation’s supporters, who made the long trip to Russia, were regretting every single second they spent there.

They were thankful to just be there, at the big dance. The Canaleros knew that, too, as they prayed to God in thanks.

It’s not like the World Cup 2018 odds saw them making it out of their groups, anyway.

What’s next?

Both teams will be packing up their bags and head home, while the rest of us, including the SBOBET football team, will be watching England and Belgium advance through the group.

Panama might replace Gomez with another capable mind to lead them back here, but I think he should stay. He put together a brilliant team that showed resilience against the odds. He deserves to keep the job.

Meanwhile, Maaloul might also keep his job after winning against Panama. He will likely be focusing on finding young talent to improve on their performance.






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Christian Alamodin
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