Tuesday, February 7, 2023

France falters against Tunisia but still wins its group

RAYAN, Qatar ( Associated Press) — Defending champions France finished first in their World Cup group Wednesday despite a 1-0 loss to Tunisia.

Wahbi Khajri’s superb goal in the 58th minute gave Tunisia a pyrrhic victory. The result was insufficient for the North African team to reach the round of 16, as Australia beat Denmark 1–0 in the other Group D game and finished second on goal difference.

France will take on Poland in the last 16, while the Australians will take on Lionel Messi’s Argentina.

A goal by French forward Antoine Griezmann in the eighth minute of extra time was disallowed for an offside position following intervention by the video referee.

At the same time, Tunisian players on the bench huddled around a television screen, fingers crossed for a Danish goal that would reverse the order in the standings.

“We were praying for Denmark but the goal didn’t score,” Khajri said. “But that’s football, it’s up to you. We didn’t do enough in the first two games, otherwise qualification was ours.

It was Tunisia’s third victory in the World Cup. The others were Argentina against Mexico in 1978 and Russia against Panama in 2018.

For their part, France suffered their first defeat in the tournament since the quarter-finals of 2014, when they lost 1–0 to Germany.

Khajri carved a hole through the French defence, dispossessed two opponents and finished with a fine touch. The midfielder knelt down as his teammates surrounded him to hug him. Rising to his feet, Khajri made a heart gesture to the Tunisian fans behind goal and then went off after scoring his 25th national goal, his third at the World Cup, apparently through injury.

Shortly before Khajri’s goal, a man stormed onto the pitch of the Education City Stadium with what appeared to be a Palestinian flag in hand. He then did several pirouettes until six security guards were able to break him out.

With France having already qualified for the knockout stage, manager Didier Deschamps rested Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and most of his regular starting eleven. Only four of the starters had had a sip of World Cup experience before.

“It will be a good lesson for them. Now they know what it is like to play at the highest level against a Tunisian team that has made a thousand rounds,” Deschamps said. “We were too sneaky, late on the mark and we made technical mistakes.”

Deschamps defended his decision, saying that the large goal difference over Australia gave them an exemption: “We didn’t need one. Unless something catastrophic happened (in the second game).

Khajri said he does not think France has done anything reprehensible by dating his replacement.

“Disrespect? No. (Aurélian) Tchoumenyi plays for Real Madrid and so does (Eduardo) Camavinga,” Khajri said. It is an honor to play against him. I was born in a small corner of Corsica that Nobody knows, so it’s unbelievable that I’m playing in the World Cup.

But Khajri’s goal prompted Deschamps to turn to his main figures. Embappé and Griezmann made a desperate attempt to save the tie.

It could be said that Deschamps appealed more to the “C” team than the “B”. Randal Kolo Muani failed trials as a center forward and Kingsley Coman – the scorer of Bayern Munich’s goal in the 2020 Champions League final – was left very isolated.

French centre-back Raphael Varane, however, looked regal as he neutralized a Tunisia attack as he approached the six-yard box in the first half.

Another who was rested was goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Steve Mandanda, aged 37, defended for the second time at the World Cup. The last time also happened four years ago in the third game of the group stage.

Nation World News Desk
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