Ousama Darragi (L) of Esperance Sportive de Tunis is challenged by Hiram Mier of Monterrey during the FIFA Club World Cup 5th Place match between Club de Futbol Monterrey and Esperance Sportive de Tunis at Toyota Stadium in Toyota, Japan. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
After a difficult qualification to the Africa Cup of Nations, Tunisia comes in with uncertainties but still holds its strong defensive identity.
Spearhead of the ''Arab Spring'' on the political/sociological scene, The Eagles of Carthage are back to the Africa Cup of Nations after failing to make it pass the group stage in the 2010 edition. Not a stellar African power since winning the ACN in 2004, Tunisia qualified to the competition by finishing 2nd in its group behind Botswana, against whom they lost twice. It's not a strong foundation to build on to conquer a difficult tournament like the ACN. The good news is that, since 1994, Tunisia has always been present in thee Africa Cup of Nations.
A Rich Local Football
Taking over the reigns of the team after a bad start in the qualifiers, Sami Trabelsi took the local route to build half of the team. Eleven of the twenty three players come from the local championship, local players that won the 2011 CHAN (African Nations Championship), an African competition in which nations are represented by players who play in their respective local divisions. Sami Trabelsi is going for the best players for the group, for his philosophy, not necessarily the ''star players'' that play in Europe.
A Defensive Culture
Not finding really known for playing an all offensive attacking style, Tunisia has always relied on its defence at club and national team level , a pride for the nation. Like a chess game, Tunisia will play a very tactical and strategic game mixed with a physical roughness not to be underestimated, usually only needing one goal to shut it down. The Haggui-Abdennour duo has been the axe of steel on which the Eagles of Carthage have relied on. From their last four friendlies, Tunisia has only conceded two goals.
Projected Starting Lineup (4-3-3)
GK Aymen Mathlouthi, LB Ammar Jemmal, CB Karim Hagui, CB Aymen Abdennour, RB Bilel Ifa, DM Adel Chedli CM Mejdi Traoui CM Yassine Chikhaoui, LF Sami Allagui, RF Oussama Darragi, CF Issam Jemaa
Oussama Darragi: The key player in Tunisia's conquest of the 2011 CHAN, the 24 year-old is won the 2011 Best African player among players playing on the continent. A classical number 10, he has a technical elegance to a point that he is compared to an artist. A tall midfielder with scoring ability (10 goals in the Tunisian league), all offensive hopes will be put on him with the inconsistency of the team in the offensive sector.
Quarterfinal loss to Ghana: In Group C, in which a derby against Morocco awaits them, followed by an unknown Niger team and finishing with co-host Gabon, Tunisia is not favorite to come out 1st in the group but experience and cohesion in the group will get them past the group stage. Predicting a 2nd place finish in Group C, Tunisia should meet African giant Ghana and I do not see them upsetting the Black Stars.