Tunisia defeated Denmark in Group D of the World Cup

Tunisia defeated Denmark in Group D of the World Cup

Al Rayyan, Qatar – Arab teams are making an impact in the first World Cup in the Middle East.

Tunisia were held to a 0-0 draw by European Championship semi-finalists Denmark on Tuesday, three hours after Saudi Arabia defeated Argentina in a shock upset.

Before a stadium almost full of Tunisia’s red-clad supporters, midfielder Issa Laidouni set the tone in the first minute when he dislodged Denmark’s Christian Eriksen with an aggressive sliding tackle – then stopped. And he pumped his arms dangerously. Beckoning people to rise further.

“I am always proud to represent Tunisia and we always go on the field with 100% commitment.” Laydoni said through a translator.

Tunisia probably deserved more but an expert save by goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel just before the half-hour helped keep Denmark level.

Already down to the grass after breaking down Tunisia’s defence, Schmeichel stuck his arm out to block a shot from Issame Jabali, who plays his club ball for Odense in Denmark.

It was just the type of rescue that the keeper’s father, former Manchester United great Peter Schmeichel, used to get out.

“We wanted to win at least one point,” Laidoni said. “We didn’t come for a draw. We wanted to win, and I think we had chances for that, but at the end of the day we’re happy with the draw.

The match marked Eriksen’s return to a major tournament a year and a half after suffering a heart attack with Denmark at Euro 2020.

In keeping with his traditional playmaker position, Eriksen produced a dangerous long shot across goal in the second half that Tunisian goalkeeper Ayman Dahman had to parry.

And in the next corner, Denmark hit the post.

Tunisia also saved Denmark a last-minute penalty chance but the referee decided to play on after a video review for possible handball.

Denmark has been one of the harshest critics of the tournament in Qatar and during the pre-match warm-up its players wore black long-sleeved shirts over their red game jerseys to mourn the migrant workers who are football’s biggest. They died in creating the infrastructure for the event.

Denmark also planned to quit the campaign before joining other European teams in wearing ‘One Love’ anti-discrimination armbands when FIFA threatened to hand out yellow cards.

However, former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorening Schmidt, who is now the head of the Danish Football Federation’s governance and development committee, was seen at the stadium wearing a rainbow-coloured coat.

Denmark have lofty goals after their performance at last year’s Euro 2020 and a near-perfect qualification campaign, while Tunisia are looking to progress from the group stage for the first time in their sixth World Cup appearance.

After a lack of atmosphere in the opening few matches, the large number of Tunisian fans at the Education City Stadium felt like a home game for the North African team. The Tunisian fans chanted, beat drums and blew air horns when their team had the ball – then booed again and again when Denmark had possession.

Many demonstrators waving Palestinian flags also supported Tunisia.

In the end, both teams produced 13 shots.

Object confusion

While saying it was “not an excuse”, Denmark coach Kasper Holmand said finding ways to protest against Qatar was a challenge.

“I spend a lot of time every day trying to figure out how to handle it,” he said. “There are so many things I want to know how to say. I’m struggling with it, I have to say it.

“I only speak for myself when I say that the situation now looks difficult.”

People’s support

Tunisia are not known for their attacking prowess but coach Jalil Kadri said the huge crowd support helped his team up their tempo.

“It lifted our spirits,” Qadri said. “Mentally it gives us a big lift. It really helped us. But tactically and physically we also played well.”

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Tunisia will face Australia in Group D on Saturday, while Denmark will face defending champions France on the same day.

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