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Saturday, 1 June, 2002, 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK
Tunisia go back to basics
Ammar Souayah and Khemais Laabidi
Laabidi (right) says the team need discipline to beat Russia

After a series of problems in their build-up to the World Cup, Tunisia are now approaching their opening game with Russia with a degree of optimism.

Despite the sudden retirement of captain and star goalkeeper Chokri El Ouaer through a back problem and a dismal run of results in 2002, assistant coach Khemais Laabidi said the team has begun a process of renewal and maintains the capacity to surprise.

"The Tunisian team has gotten back to the basics," Laabidi said.

The team was much criticised by former manager Henri Michel, who feared they faced "disaster" at the finals after two friendly games with low-ranked Japanese J-league sides ended with defeat.

But Laabidi said the time Tunisia have spent together since preparations began for the tournament had helped restore confidence.

"We have spent two months together and the team is used toeach other now and they play more naturally," he added.

"Now the players and coaches are communicating very well andthey are enjoying the training."

He warned that his side could not take Russia with any complacency, however.

"The Russian team is very good technically and very fast. Weneed to keep our shape against them," he said.

"They are also very strong on the counter-attack."

However, he added that thought his side would be able to surprise the Russians with their own striking qualities.

"We are looking for some surprises from Jaziri. He is quickand we are expecting some goals from him," Laabidi said.

"Sellimi will be the focus and Jaziri will work off of him."

And echoing the thoughts of both South Africa coach Jomo Sono and Nigeria boss Adegboye Onigbinde, Laabidi praised Senegal for their surprise 1-0 win over France in the opening game of the tournament.

"It was a very surprising game. Senegal played very wellagainst France and kept their shape to contain them," he said.


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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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