World Cup Group G: Can Belgium keep Tunisia's Carthage Eagles grounded?
After a rather routine victory over Panama, Belgium will hope to reach the business end of things with a game to spare come Saturday. The Red Devils will do themselves well if they manage to secure another three points when they face Tunisia; with a crunch game against England still to come.
Tunisia, meanwhile, were undone by a late header from Harry Kane in the opener, going down 2-1 in Volgograd. They did put up some stout resistance despite being bossed territorially, though. The Carthage Eagles were close to sharing a mighty, precious point with the Europeans before a minor blip opened the doors for Kane’s second.
These two nations aren’t strange to each other. Before going to war at Spartak Stadium, Moscow, they've faced off thrice. Yet, there’s not been much to separate them. Both have picked up one win apiece with the only World Cup clash in 2002 ending in a stalemate. A point, in this case, would be a disaster for Nabil Maaloul’s team who could join the North African exodus.
FIFA Ranking: 3rd
Confidence isn't something lacking around Roberto Martinez’s camp at the moment. The ex-Everton manager has done pretty well accommodating most of his offensive players while not losing balance at the other end. Romelu Lakuku and Dries Mertens are happy together, as are the creative pairing of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bryune. Even though they waited until the second half to crack the Caribbeans, the Red Devils eventually got it right.
Skipper Vincent Kompany, despite remaining with the squad, is still recovering from a hamstring injury suffered in their warm-up match against Portugal and is not expected to be fit until their final Group G game against England. Thomas Vermaelen won't be available either, meaning there may not be any change in the line-up.
Belgium Possible XI: Courtois, Alderweireld, Boyata, Vertonghen, Meunier, De Bruyne, Witsel, Ferreira Carrasco, Mertens, Hazard, Lukaku.
FIFA Ranking: 21st
For the Africans, they would have been encouraged by their strong showing against England. The Carthage Eagles were the first CAF side to find the target in Russia. Maaloul will most likely stick with the same 4-1-4-1 formation, having controlled the game better with a shift to a back five in the second half.
But first, they must overcome a mental block of a 12-game winless streak at the Mundial. Their last and only victory was over Mexico in 1978. They will have to make at least one enforced change, with goalkeeper Mouez Hassen having returned home to undergo surgery on an injured shoulder. Farouk Ben Mustapha will deputise in his absence.
Tunisia: Mustapha, Bronn, S Ben Youssef, Meriah, Maaloul, Skhiri, F Ben Youssef, Sassi, Badri, Sliti, Khazri
As it is the case with other African sides, Tunisia may lose focus at the most crucial moment. The unforgiven Red Devils won’t let it slide. Perhaps not with the huge scoreline as against Panama, but Belgium will surely get this one done. Martinez's team is just too talented offensively to be clasped for the entire minutes.