World Cup Group G: Panama, Tunisia, one last game before they go
On Wednesday, the wailing boys of Group G will lock horns in a game that has nothing at stake but pride. Panama and Tunisia are not the worst football teams in the world, but they've certainly not given a good account of themselves. Their elimination had been confirmed long before they meet at the 44,000-capacity Mordovia Arena.
It’s been a disastrous tournament for the Americans and their African counterparts. Inside two matches, both teams conceded a combined 16 goals. Did they leave their defence at home? It seems like it. Nevertheless, we take it that lessons must’ve been learnt. Before they both go home though, they must prove accountable for that $8 million FIFA-money and play the compulsory dead rubber.
As far as football goes, there’s no history between Panama and Tunisia. The duo has never met in competitive football before.
If we can deduce anything from how Panama and Tunisia have played at this World Cup, it would be their exciting attack-minded style of play. We’ll be expecting to see more of that.
FIFA Ranking: 55th
Prior to this tournament, Hernan Dario Gomez worked his magic with Panama. The country was languishing as CONCACAF underdogs with no real chance of making it to a global FIFA tournament. Then came Dario Gomez in 2014. An expert in helping teams qualify for the World Cup. The 61-year-old's achievement with this Panama team will go down in history – a first-ever FIFA World Cup berth for the small Central American nation. There was a national holiday to celebrate it.
Panama’s qualification came at the expense of the United States so a lot was expected. However, they fell short at the big stage. Quality perhaps being their biggest bane. Simply found out against Belgium and England, conceding a scary nine goals from 13 shots faced. They’ve left a lot to be desired.
Good enough a thing, Los Canaleros have gotten their first World Cup goal thanks to England. Against Tunisia, they should be looking for something more. Some points, perhaps.
The Panamanian players are all fully fit, so Gomez wouldn’t be making any forced changes. The impressive Felipe Baloy and Ricardo Avila are two players who are expected to make the starting lineup ahead of Gabriel Gomez and Edgar Barcenas.
FIFA Ranking: 21st
Tunisia got belted out of the competition by a rampant Belgian side on Saturday. That has become a familiar tale for a country who has appeared in four World Cup tournaments but only recorded one victory – it came as far back as 1978. The Carthage Eagles have consistently failed to fly at this stage and Russia’s edition hasn’t been any different.
The Africans were brilliant during qualifying but have come to this tournament with a defence only worse than Panama’s. Seven goals conceded in a couple of games can best be described as horrendous. Solace can, however, be taken in the fact the Eagles have scored in every game they’ve played. Two well-taken goals against Belgium served as a reminder of how good the Tunisians are when they venture forward.
The North Africans are expected to go all out in the hunt for pride; led by their talismanic skipper, Wahbi Khaziri. Coach Nabil Maaloul is expected to ring the changes: Saber Khalifa is expected to start alongside Khaziri in attack while Naim Sliti is set to earn a starting berth in midfield ahead of Ferjani Sassi.
Both sides have been woeful defensively so we’re expected to see them still make schoolboy errors at the back. That leaves me anticipating another goal-infested game,
Tunisia is way more experienced at this level than Panama. Although the Eagles have achieved little over the years. Regardless of their perennial underachievement, they should still be too strong for Panama.
Tunisia wins 3-1.