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Saturday, 25 May, 2002, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
Michel warns of disaster
Ammar Souyah
New coach Ammar Souyah has his work cut out
Tunisia's former coach Henry Michel has warned that his old charges could be heading for disaster at the World Cup unless they improve.

With an injury-depleted squad and a string of poor results the 'Carthage Eagles' have had the worst possible build-up to the World Cup in Korea and Japan.

While they may have qualified for their third World Cup finals with ease, Michel believes they will be needing a minor miracle to emerge from their qualifying group, which includes Russia, co-hosts Japan and Belgium.

Ali Zitouni
Zitouni has made a welcome return
Michel was sacked after Tunisia's poor showing at the African Nations Cup five months ago after just four months in the job.

He believes Tunisia will struggle in the Far East.

"When I see what we've demonstrated on the pitch and that we're going to the World Cup with this group I've reason to be worried. I'm not a miracle worker," said Michel.

Things had looked brighter for new coach Ammar Souyah with several players who missed the World Cup coming back into the line up.

Freiburg striker Adel Sellimi, defender Ziad Jaziri of E.S Sahel and Esperance striker Ali Zitouni, back from an injury which had kept him off the pitch for six months, are in the lineup.

But the injury of star midfielder Oussama Sallami with a twisted knee against Japanese club side Oita Trinita earlier this month, has been a bitter blow.

They are also without their veteran goalkeeper and former team captain Chokri El Ouaer, who announced his retirement, while playmaker Skander Souyah has been suspended for doping.

Former captain Chokri El Ouaer
El Ouaer retired before the finals
Nevertheless a training camp in the French spa town of Vittel early this month seemed to breath new life into the team and after they broke their duck of seven matches without a goal, winning two friendlies against French first division sides Metz (4-3) and Sedan (3-0).

But once they arrived in the Far East their misfortunes continued with a 2-1 defeat against Oita Trinita when Sellimi was injured and losing 3-0 Thursday against J-League side Gamba Osaka.

So the north Africans look to have their work cut out against Group H opponents Japan, Russia and Belgium despite the $42,000 promised to each player if they qualify for the second round.

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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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