North Africa, which plays ‘European-style African soccer’ on the border of Europe and Africa, is a region of ‘unexpected masters’. Algeria, who inflicted great pain on South Korea at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Egypt, with its top striker Mohamed Salah, Morocco, who made a surprise appearance at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and Tunisia, who will face South Korea in Seoul on the 13th, represent North Africa. While Morocco is the dominant force in North African soccer based on current FIFA rankings, recent results, and individual player quality, Tunisia is also considered a force to be reckoned with, having reached the knockout stage of the Qatar World Cup and defeated France.
Tunisia is ranked 29th in Africa by FIFA, behind Morocco (13th) and Senegal (20th). It’s better than South Korea, which is ranked 26th, but it’s also the highest ranked opponent in the September and October A-Match friendlies. In September, they won 3-0 against Botswana in a 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) qualifier and followed that up with a 3-1 victory against Egypt in a friendly. South Korea also faced 33rd-ranked Wales and 57th-ranked Saudi Arabia last month. The next opponent is 95th-ranked Vietnam on Sept. 17 in Suwon.
“We can’t always play strong teams,” South Korea’s head coach Jürgen Klinsmann told reporters on October 9, the day the squad joined the A-Match squad, before adding, “Tunisia is a very strong team. They won against Egypt in June and beat France at the World Cup.온라인바카라 I’m not trying to sugarcoat it. We have to be well prepared.”
The ‘Eagles of Carthage’ Tunisia are a tricky opponent, to be sure. From the World Cup in Qatar at the end of last year to last month’s A-match, Tunisia won five, drew two and lost two of their nine matches, and boasted a salty defense that conceded just four goals in those nine games, including just two in-play situations. As Klinsmann noted, they made an upset in the third round of the World Cup group stage, beating defending champions France 1-0. However, it’s important to note that this game was played after France had already advanced to the round of 16.
Tunisia’s head coach Zarel Khadri has been leading the team since January last year, after spending nearly 20 years in the professional ranks and serving as Tunisia’s head coach. The team plays the North African style of “sticky soccer” based on a 3-4-3 formation. The defense is lined up with five men and protected by the physically imposing double-bolancers Elias Skiri (Eintracht Frankfurt) and Aissa Raidouni (Union Berlin). How to break down the third and final defense will be Klinsmann’s biggest challenge.
Unlike last September’s A-Match Day, when he called up a younger squad to prepare for the CAN in Côte d’Ivoire next January, Khadri has called back “pivotal players” (Khadri), including striker Naim Sliti (Al Ahli Qatar), defender Mohamed Draghi (Basel) and midfielder Anis Ben Slimane (Sheffield United). South Korea’s Tunisian opponents are close to “full strength” with the exception of injured defender Ali Abdi (Caen). Playmaker Wahbi Khazri (Montpellier), who has been Tunisia’s ace for nearly a decade, retired after the World Cup in Qatar.
Players to watch include captain and main striker Youssef Moussaqni (Al Ahrabi), who is known for his composure in the box, 2003 World Cup supernova Hannibal Mebry (Man Utd), defensive nucleus Yassine Meria (Esperance Tunis), and left-back Ali Maaloul (Al Ahly-Egypt). Sliti was teammates with Kwon Chang-hoon (Suwon), Montassar Talbi (Lorient) with Hwang In-beom (Tsubenazbezda), and M’Sakni with Nam Tae-hee (Yokohama F.Marinos).
There was some debate in Tunisia about the inappropriateness of playing an away exhibition match in Asia ahead of the CAN, but Coach Khadri said: “The matches against Korea and Japan will help us prepare for the CAN. Korea and Japan are very good opponents. Given their style of play, which is based on speed and physicality, we will be able to use the two friendlies to our advantage by reacting to their fast pace. In addition, the intensity of Asian soccer is similar to African soccer,” he added. The Korea-Tunisia match will take place at 8 p.m. on Sept. 13 at the Seoul World Cup Stadium.