World Cup LIVEBLOG: Tunisia v England

World Cup LIVEBLOG: Tunisia v England
9 min read
18 June, 2018
Don't miss a move with our liveblog of England and Tunisia's opening Russia 2018 match.
21:05:00 - That's it from us for tonight. Make sure to follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab to keep up to date with all the best coverage of Middle East teams at the Russia 2018 World Cup. Join us for Russia-Egypt tomorrow evening!

20:58:31 - It's another loss for an Arab team.

20:54:49 - "We spoke a lot about togetherness" - England captain and twice-goal-scorer, Harry Kane.

20:49:51 - A fantastic first half of the first half for England, but Tunisia did their best to slow the game down to allow them the space to play, and held on to a reasonable 40 percent of possession. Some solid defensive work from the Tunisian back line, but always under pressure from a hard-pressing England squad. 

Tunisia will fancy their luck against Panama, but can't be looking forward to Saturday's game against Belgium after tonight.

England have, however, shown their weaknesses. When they're not allowed to play the high-pressing game they want, they can easily be dragged into a quagmire going nowhere. Pretty decent start for the Three Lions overall, however.

20:48:24 - FULL TIME. Tunisia 1 - England 2.

20:48:04 - Rashford making another effort, but it's out in the corner

20:47:28 - CHANGE for England. Lingard off, Dier on. Southgate's turn to run down the clock.

20:45:49 - GOAL for Harry Kane, headed in for England at the far post in the 91st minute.

20:44:21 - Four minutes of stoppage time to come

20:42:48 - Loftus-Cheek making an effort for England, but runs it too deep and over the line. Goal kick.

20:38:51 - CHANGE for Tunisia - superstar Wahbi Khazri comes off, passing the captain's armband to #14, Mohamed Ben Amor. Saber Khalifa comes on in his place.

20:37:41 - Rashford wins a corner, Stones comes up for a header, clashes with the Tunisia keeper, who goes down, apparently injured.

20:36:45 - Enjoy this video while you're waiting for something to happen in the game.

20:35:55 - Into the final ten minutes.

20:35:29 - Sounds about right.

20:33:55 - CHANGE for England. Dele Alli finally comes off. Ruben Loftus-Cheek comes on.

20:33:07 - Young's free kick fails to dip, sails over the crossbar

20:31:33 - Free kick for England in front of the goal after a clothesline "tackle" by Syam Ben Youssef

20:31:02 - Rashford doing his best to inject some pace and energy back into the game.

20:29:11 - CHANGE for Tunisia - Naim Sliti coming off, making space for Mohamed Ben Amor of Al Ahli Riyadh. Looking like Tunisian coach Nabil Maaloul wants to sit deep and play for the draw. Still got 20mins to go, though...

20:25:44 - Chance for Naim Sliti - ends up miles wide.

20:23:48 - If you're wanting to know more about Middle Eastern teams at this World Cup, do check out our superb guide.

20:23:04 - Trippier sends the free kick wide and to the left.

20:21:58 - Kane clashes with Meriah again. Free kick to England. CHANGE for England - Sterling off, Rashford on.

20:20:06 - Henderson whips it in, can't find Maguire. Tunisian goal kick. Spectators are so bored they've started a Mexican wave.

20:17:16 - Lingard can't quite get on the end of a long ball, touches it out for a goal kick. The fizz has gone out from this game a little now. Needs a goal. Here comes Kane, with Sterling on his left...

20:16:16 - Dele Alli looked like he might have a hamstring problem in the first half. Plenty of Manchester United fans online willing to give coach Gareth Southgate their advice...

20:14:41 - Trippier's corner finds Stones, on to Kane, then cleared.

20:13:11 - Sterling running into a sea of Tunisian white shirts in the box as another attack is foiled. England pressing high.

20:11:23 - Tunisia doing well to slow the game down, play at their pace

20:11:01 - Henderson gets a cross in, but Alli can't reach it.

20:06:51 - Khazri comes close, but the flag is waved for offside. Didn't look offside to me. The officials not exactly covering themselves in glory with this game.

20:05:30 - Tunisia's Yassine Meriah in the number four shirt manhandles Harry Kane to the floor as the corner comes in. Referee missed it again.

20:04:27 - That shouldn't have troubled the keeper to keep hold of - messy clearance from the sub sends the ball off for an England corner.

20:03:30 - Got to love these Tunisia fans...


20:01:23 - Foul on Henderson by Sassi. Free kick for England deep in their own half.

20:00:19 - Here we go with the second half, and at least a solid minute of posession for Tunisia.

19:57:49 - Before the half-time oranges are all sucked dry, let's have a look at Twitter...

19:52:59 - England fans will be pretty happy with the way their team has been playing. Other than that one moment of Kyle Walker madness, they've looked like one of the tournament's big teams.


19:43:30 - Half time. Tunisia 1 - England 1. The scoreline isn't an accurate representation of the game so far

19:42:28 - Tunisia's Ali Maaloul takes a hard ball to the ribs from Trippier, goes down clutching his hamstring. A little unnecessary timewasting there.

19:40:55 - Three minutes of injury time in the first half. England have got the momentum back.

19:39:31 - Another unlucky moment for Lingard, just the wrong side of the post

19:38:24 - Lingard shot deflected out for a corner - goes long but eventually finds Trippier. Saved by Tunisia's substitute keeper Ben Mustapha

19:38:06 - On that Kane 'tackle' in the box:

19:36:19 - Another England fee kick, another bungled Tunisia clearance, though eventually manage to get it out for a throw for the Eagles.

19:34:31 - How did that not go in? A handful of England players all have a go at goal; none succeed - though replay shows Kane being wrestled to the ground. Play carries on. Tunisia got away with it there - that should have been a penalty in anyone's book. 

19:33:40 - Trippier prepares to send a free-kick in towards Dele Alli, who looks like he's ready to come off

19:31:38 - It's been a half-hour of one-way traffic, all going England's way. One lapse of concentration, one moment of indiscipline, and it's drawn level again.

19:31:01 - GOAL! Tunisia's Ferjani Sassi slots it right into the corner from the penalty spot, straight past Jordan Pickford. Outstanding penalty.

19:27:51 - Break led by Tunisia captain Wahbi Khazri and Bronn leads to a... PENALTY DECISION as Kyle Walker stretches an arm behind him, taking down Syam Ben Youssef.

19:26:36 - If you see it, let us know: @The_NewArab

19:25:54 - Dylan Bronn shows off his juggling skills, and his handball earns England a free kick.

19:22:30 - Suddenly Tunisia's Sassi makes the most of a scramble just outside the box to fire off a shot - deflected for a corner..

19:19:34 - Immediately back up the other end, and Lingard misses a great opportunity after a cross is floated in beautifully for him.

19:17:59 - Corner sent way too far, gathered by Sliti - who sends it wildly above the crossbar. Looks like it reached row Z of the stands...

19:17:27 - A moment of excitement from Tunisia's Dylan Bronn in the 11 shirt - but his cross is blocked and it goes out for a corner

19:16:35 - Little break from Tunisia, and some fancy footwork from Naim Sliti - comes to nothing though, losing possession just seconds later.

19:15:47 - Hehehe. Bit of a Titanic moment there...

19:13:04 - That could have been another goal. Excellent pressing from England. Tunisia not getting much of a look-in so far.

19:11:37 - Let's hope that's not the end of his World Cup.

19:09:28 - Yep, that's the end of the night for Hassen. He's hugged by Dylan Bronn as he makes way on the pitch for replacement keeper Farouk Ben Mustapha

19:07:54 - Mouez Hassen is down again. Surely the Tunisian keeper can't continue on the field much longer?

19:05:58 - GOAL - Harry Kane in the tenth minute, from a corner, off the rebound from the keeper

19:05:34 - Harry Kane gets a hot in for England, but a Tunisian defender deflects it out for a corner

19:04:44 - The Carthage Eagles get their first run of play but are quickly dispossed in midfield.

19:03:07 - A quick look at the other Middle Eastern teams to have qualified for Russia 2018:

19:02:49 - An arm from Ashley Young brings a Tunisian player down briefly

19:02:16 - Replacement goalkeeper Farouk Ben Mustapha is warming up on the touchline

19:00:13 - Not five minutes in and the Tunisian goalie is down with a slight injury - overstretched something? He's carrying on - but it's a nervous start for Tunisia fans

18:58:23 - Putting the pressure on, Tunisian keeper Mouez Hassen forced to make another save after a strong England corner

18:57:55 - CLOSE - First chance comes in for Deli Alli, saved and sent out for a corner

18:56:51 - The opening two minutes are all England.

18:56:42 - And we're off!

18:49:54 - While we're waiting for kick-off, just time to remind ourselves of what our football correspondent, Uri Levy, thinks of Tunisia...

Nickname: The Carthage Eagles

Coach: Nabil Maaloul

Star: Wahbi Khazri

Arriving to Russia as:
 Limited by injury, but determined

Expectations: None. To enjoy the experience while perhaps hoping to sting a European giant.

Tunisia is a special country. The country where the Arab Spring first erupted, the largest exporter of Islamic State group militants, and the only country in the recent series of Middle Eastern revolution to end up with something resembling a functioning democracy. 

And yes, it is a football-holic nation.

With a great club culture in the domestic league, the Tunisian national team will enjoy great support in Russia. The squad is the world's highest-ranked Arab team at the moment - 21st in the most recent FIFA rankings.

Despite winning the Africa Cup of Nations only once, Tunisia is counted as a solidly African team. But hopes for achieving something in the tournament took a serious hit after both the Eagles' superstars, Youssef Msakni and Taha Khneissi, were injured in their clubs' final matches of the season. 

This has left the Carthage Eagles dependent on Wahbi Khazri as the main man - but has also made room for promising talents as Naim Sliti and Said Eddine Khaoui to ply their trade on the world's biggest stage.

Qualification for the final 16 is an unlikely dream, but a near loss to Belgium, a heroic tie with England and a hammering victory against a weak Panama would count as a major success for the Tunisians.

Full squad:

Goalkeepers: Farouk Ben Mustapha (Al Shabab, Saudi Arabia), Moez Hassen (Chateauroux, France), Aymen Mathlouthi (Al Baten, Saudi Arabia)

Defenders: Rami Bedoui (Etoile du Sahel), Yohan Benalouane (Leicester City, England), Syam Ben Youssef (Kasimpasa, Turkey), Dylan Bronn (Gent, Belgium), Oussama Haddadi (Dijon, France), Ali Maaloul (Al Ahly, Egypt), Yassine Meriah (CS Sfaxien), Hamdi Nagguez (Zamalek, Egypt)

Midfielders: Anice Badri (Esperance), Mohamed Amine Ben Amor (Al Ahli Riyadh, Saudi Arabia), Ghaylene Chaalali (Esperance), Ahmed Khalil (Club Africain), Saifeddine Khaoui (Troyes, France), Ferjani Sassi (Al Nasr, Saudi Arabia), Ellyes Skhiri (Montpellier, France), Naim Sliti (Dijon, France), Bassem Srarfi (Nice, France)

Forwards: Fakhreddine Ben Youssef (Al Ittifaq, Saudi Arabia), Saber Khalifa (Club Africain), Wahbi Khazri (Rennes, France).

18:45:48 - Just 15 minutes until kick-off in Tunisia and England's first match in the Russia 2018 World Cup... Here we go!