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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
Tunisia restore their pride
Jaziri goes down
Jaziri contends that he should have had a penalty

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Before Wednesday's match Tunisia were considered one of the worst teams in the tournament.

But after playing Russia in Kobe the North Africans have shown they are real battlers who do not deserve their underdog status.

If luck had been on their side they would have come away with a point and perhaps more, instead of 2-0 defeat.

But the team achieved what they had set out to do, which was simply to play well.

That simple goal exposes just how serious their six-month-long run of terrible form had become.

However Tunisia at last produced a performance that showed they are worthy of representing Africa at the World Cup.

Good match

Most impressive was the character shown by the team.

They fought for everything with the powerful Russians, and showed an intelligence and creative flair that had been lacking for so long.

Mistakes let them down, with goalkeeper Ali Boumnijel giving the ball away with a poor clearance throw which led to the first goal.

And an over-complicated move in midfield again gave possession away to the fast Russian attack which made Tunisia pay dearly with the second.

Until that point, Tunisia had proved a match for the Russians.

Ziad Jaziri and Slim Ben Achour posed constant problems for the Russian defence, with darting runs and some wonderful dribbling.

Tunisia had the ball in their opponents six yard box on over ten occasions, but too often had no-one in the right place to make it count.

Penalty appeal

When the Tunisians did connect, the ball either went wide or hit one of the defenders.

They could have been ahead after 20 minutes, but the ball trickled agonizing past the outside of the left post after Ben Achour capitalized on a defensive mix-up.

Later in the game Jaziri had what appeared a good penalty shout turned down.

The Russians played with the pace and solid precision for which they are renowned, but their defence was troubled when the ball was worked around quickly.

If group rivals Belgium and Japan were counting on a guaranteed three points against the North Africans, they now know that they are going to have a game on their hands.


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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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