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Friday, 12 April, 2002, 19:09 GMT 20:09 UK
Third time lucky for Tunisia?
Adel Sellimi
Adel Sellimi taking on the English defence at France 98
Tunisia are no strangers to the World Cup, but they will be hoping to make more of an impact than in their previous two appearances.

In both 1978 and 1998, Tunisia qualified for the finals, only to suffer first round exits in the face of strong competition.

This time around, fans will be demanding more from their team in Korea and Japan, targeting at least a place in the second round.

But many would agree that the Tunisians have acquitted themselves better in the past than the results might indicate.

On their World Cup debut 24 years ago, they set a new milestone for their continent by becoming the first African team to win a game in the final stages.

Tunisia, Africa's only representative in the 1978 competition, pulled off an amazing 3-1 victory in their opening game against Mexico.

Another impressive display saw the side achieve a goalless draw against football giants West Germany, although the damage had already been done.

A 1-0 loss to Poland ensured that the two European sides would go through to the next stage while Tunisia's World Cup dream was over.

African force

It took 20 years for the African side to reach the finals of football's greatest event again and this time it was even tougher.

The North Africans were pitted against some tough opposition and, after losing to Colombia and England, they had to settle for a solitary point from a 1-1 draw against Romania.

Despite the disappointments of France 98, it is clear that Tunisia have become a solid force in African football over the past few years.

They may never have won the African Nations Cup, but they did manage to finish second to South Africa in 1996 and made it to the semi-finals in 2000.

With the departure of former coach Henry Michel in March, the run-up to the tournament in Korea and Japan has not been easy for the side.

But Tunisia will be hoping that problems off the pitch will not be expressed on it and the blend of youth, such as Ali Zitouni, and experience through players like Adel Sellimi will pay dividends this summer.

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GROUP H
  P GD PTS
JAPAN 3 +3 7
BELGIUM 3 +1 5
RUSSIA 3 0 3
TUNISIA 3 -4 1

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