Tunisia aim for World Cup round of 16 after beating Japan

OSAKA, Japan, June 14 – Tunisia head coach Jalel Kadri believes his side can reach the World Cup round of 16 for the first time in six attempts after claiming an impressive 3-0 victory against Japan on Tuesday.

The North Africans have never made it past the group stage of a World Cup, but Kadri believes this could be their year after second-half goals from Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane, Ferjani Sassi and Issam Jebali beat the Japan in Osaka.

Tunisia also beat Chile 2-0 in Kobe last Friday and Kadri believes they are gaining momentum ahead of meeting holders France, Denmark and Australia in Qatar later this year.

“Our goal was to get to the World Cup, but now that we’ve achieved that, we want to qualify for the first time, that’s our goal,” the 50-year-old said.

“We have France, Denmark and Australia in our group and it will be very difficult, but we want to fulfill our dream and qualify for the Round of 16 the sixth time around.”

Tunisia made Japan pay for an expensive first half when Romdhane opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 55th minute.

A defensive error from Japan left Sassi for the second goal in the 76th minute, before substitute Jebali ended a productive night for the visitors with a breakaway goal in added time.

Tunisia arrived in Japan having played in two Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers this month and Kadri was pleased with the way his players handled the tight schedule.

Advertising. Scroll to continue reading.

“We played four games in 12 days and it was very difficult, but it’s great that we were able to win,” he said.

“Japan are a great team, especially technically and tactically, and their players are very fast. Tactically we were very good today and we needed a lot of patience.

Japan also qualified for the World Cup and came into the match after friendly 4-1 wins over Paraguay and Ghana and a narrow 1-0 loss to Brazil.

Defensive errors cost the four-time Asian champions dearly against Tunisia, with captain Maya Yoshida responsible for the visitors’ first two goals.

Manager Hajime Moriyasu preferred to focus on the positives from all four games and said he had “options” as he considered Qatar.

“We were determined not to lose at home and to give the fans here something to cheer about, so it’s disappointing we couldn’t do that,” he said.

“The result is very disappointing but I used a lot of players in many systems, so it’s not the players fault that the circumstances were difficult.

“The players put in a lot of effort and we will learn from today and learn from them,” he added.

Tunisia’s win meant they won the four-team Kirin Cup.

Advertising. Scroll to continue reading.

In the first game of the day between the beaten semi-finalists, Ghana beat Chile 3-1 on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

Ghana, who also qualified for the World Cup, finished the game with nine men after Alidu Seidu and Mubarak Wakaso were sent off.