One of Africa’s representatives at the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Tunisia held Denmark to a goalless draw in their World Cup opener on Tueaday, kicking off their Group D campaign with a strong performance against one of the pre-tournament dark horses.
Tunisia have never reached the World Cup knockouts in five previous attempts but Jalel Kadri’s side will be encouraged both with a point at Education City Stadium and with how they performed against the fancied Danes.
Since Kadri took charge of the team in January Tunisia have only lost to Brazil and they frustrated Denmark in front of thousands of noisy North Africans.
Denmark had come into the match as favourites but Tunisia tore into their more illustrious opponents from kick-off, flying into tackles.
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The massed ranks of Tunisians in the stands created a crackling atmosphere and they cheered every tackle and clearance.
After surviving a late penalty scare they celebrated a precious and unexpected point with their passionate supporters.
And in the opening match of Group C, Saudi Arabia, FIFA’s 51st ranked team and who have suffered 5-0 and 8-0 World Cup defeats down the years, roared back to claim an astonishing 2-1 victory against favourites and 3rd ranked Argentina in what has been described as the biggest upset in the FIFA World Cup.
Argentine captain, Lionel Messi began like a man on a mission, forcing an early save and then slotting in a penalty in the 10th minute for his 92nd international goal.
But from the moment the second half kicked off, the Argentines looked ragged, cumbersome and ponderous.
When Saleh Al-Shehri got away from Cristian Romero all too easily to equalise in the 48th minute to draw Saudi Arabia level, it should have focussed Argentine minds.
Instead, they looked rattled and when the Saudis swarmed in attack again five minutes later Salem Al-Dawsari shrugged off some flimsy challenges to curl a winner.
Meanwhile, Poland and Mexico settled for a 0-0 draw in the other Group D match as the Pole’s captain, Robert Lewandowski, had his penalty saved by Mexican captain Guillermo Ochoa in the 58th minute of the keenly contested match.
Lewandowski’s miss also meant he missed his chance to finally claim a World Cup tournament goal.
The stalemated tie between Mexico and Poland has left Saudi Arabia as the early leaders of Group C after their shock win over Argentina.