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Friday, 24 May, 2002, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
1978: Tunisia break the jinx
Ali Ben Moussa of Tunsia (right) clears, stopping Mexico's Guillermo Mendizabal   - photo courtesy of Popperfoto
Tunisia won Africa's first World Cup match at Argentina '78

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Tunisia's 3-1 victory over Mexico at the Rosario stadium on June 2, 1978 was the first time that an African team won a match at the World Cup.

Midfielder Tarak Dhiab, now a successful businessman, was the architect of that historic victory.

"We arrived Argentina with a lot of fear," Dhiab told BBC Sport Online.

"Zaire had done pretty badly in the previous finals and many felt we would suffer the same fate."

Dark horses

"We were given no chance. But we prepared very well and were confident," says the 1977 African footballer of the year.

The North Africans were grouped with defending champions Germany, Poland and Mexico.

The current Tunsia squad
Tunisia's current squad is short on quality

Despite impressive qualifying rounds against Egypt, Nigeria and Morocco, they were quoted as 1000-1 outsiders at the start of the World Cup.

It took a sensational win over Mexico to recognise their pedigree.

Tunisia started that game rather disappointingly, as Vasquez Ayala converted a Mexican penalty at the end of the first half.

Scottish referee John Ball gave the penalty after Amar Jebali handled the ball.

Determination

Mexico's opening goal could have been a fatal blow, but Dhiab says it strengthened their resolve not to be disgraced.

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Winning was a great moment
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Tarak Dhiab

"At half time, coach Chetali told us we treated our opponents with too much respect.

"He insisted we could still win the game if we tackled hard and imposed our self-belief and confidence," Dhiab said.

Chetali's pep talk did the trick. Ten minutes into the second half, Ali Kaabi equalised for the North Africans.

Nejid Ghommidh grabbed a second in the 80th minute and Mokhtar Dhioub scored the third goal three minutes later.

"It was a great moment. Our joy knew no bounds," Dhiab reminisced.

"The fact that the three goals were scored by defenders gave us a lot of confidence for the rest of the competition."

Disappointment

In the subsequent game against Poland, they lost 0-1.

But Dhiab insists they were unlucky not to have pinched a point.

Tunsian fans
Tunisian fans desperately seek success in 2002

"Poland was obviously better than Mexico. They had great players like Lato, Zbigniew Boniek and Deyna.

"But we played really well and should have won. We missed about four or five chances."

In order to advance to the next round, a victory over West Germany, the defending champions, was a must.

Achievement

Tunisia only managed a 0-0 draw but Dhiab insists that the scoreline was a moral victory for Africa.

"Germany was a great side. They had underlined their strength by beating Mexico 6-0.

"But they found us a hard nut to crack. We outclassed them and could have won.

"Though we could not go through, we went home happy.

"It was due to our performance that Africa earned a second World Cup place in 1982," Dhiab believes.

The tournament was a prelude to the strides that the African game would make in subsequent tournaments.

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