Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Tunisians fans display patriotic spirit against Australia
There are plenty of candidates for a second team at this World Cup, each offering a compelling argument. Canada gave Belgium a fright with their high-octane press-a-thon. Ecuador’s steel and finesse might move them into the dark horse category. And despite narrow defeat to the footballing superpower of Japan, there could yet be hope for plucky Germany.
But it is Tunisia who have won my heart, lovable but deserved losers to Australia at the Al Janoub stadium on Saturday lunchtime. Their fans have travelled in great number and are determined to enjoy themselves, cheekily olé-ing every pass in their team’s opening possession.
Their seated section moved with the fluidity of a terrace, a bouncing mass of red in the rows behind both goals. Both of their matches in Qatar have been happy riots of noise, geed up by now-customary screams and raised fists of midfielder Aissa Laidouni when he makes a tackle close to the fans.
On the pitch they are like a recently promoted side riding the crest of a wave. Most lovably to these eyes, they might not be very good.
Yassine Meriah is mostly a committed defender but prone to passing straight to opponents or losing his man, as he did when Mitchell Duke scored the game’s only goal, a clever feathered header on Craig Goodwin’s deflected cross. Issam Jebali leads from front, making things happen. Unfortunately some of those things are miscontrolling when put through on goal. Old warhorse Wahbi Khazri came off the bench, a low-impact impact sub.
Meanwhile Australia passed through them with ease. Aaron Mooy dominated in the middle, Winger Mathew Leckie and goalkeeper Mat Ryan put Australia’s tragic t-shortage behind them to play with commitment and consistency.
Best of all was Stoke City centre-back Harry Souttar, taking no nonsense from Tunisia’s attackers and bailing out partner Kye Rowles after a harrowing rick which nearly freed Taha Yassine Khenissi.
As the game wore on the Tunisian noise did not abate, with visceral whistles as the Aussies resorted to timewasting. Big drums were struck, but only at the tempo of a slightly heightened heartbeat, fitting for a team as objectively exciting as a brisk walk.
Tunisia were better in the second half but could not turn increased possession into clear chances. “We tried to be more dominant in midfield but if we are not efficient enough with the ball when we have it we cannot score,” said manager Jalel Kadri.
Australia could have their fate in their own hands. Despite reaching the past five editions this was just their third World Cup win in history and their first clean sheet at the tournament since 1974. Asked what his plans are to beat Denmark, coach Graham Arnold replied “Can I just have five minutes to enjoy this?”
By the end the Tunisians had quietened at last. Instead the pockets of yellow jiggled their inflatable kangaroos. With France up next for Tunisia there is a danger that their tournament is already over, bar the shouting.
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FULL TIME: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
...but there is the final whistle! It is a crucial victory and a vital three points for Australia! They have bounced back superbly from that opening 4-1 loss to France. This was a close one... but they had the quality in defence to deny Tunisia, who now only have one point from their first two games. And face France next.
90+6 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Would not be wanting to watch this as an Australian fan today. They have been good – and probably just good enough – but it's nerve-wracking stuff. Just bodies in the way in the box.
Australia break and nearly have a chance for a goal, but Mabil loses it...
90+4 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Shkiri with the cross in from the left, first time. Mat Ryan claims! Not for the first time.
Not much longer for Australia to cling on.
90+2 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
It's desperate stuff in their own box from Australia. All their players there.. Tunisia knocking it about, pressing them. But they cannot find a way through. Sassi goes into the book for a handball that prevents an Australia counter attack.
90 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Just the six minutes of added time. That is a bit of a surprise. Man of the Match performance is a toss up between Mooy and Souttar.
89 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
The chances are coming for Tunisia now. Kechrida, on the right, drags it back to Khazri about 15 yards out but he can only direct it towards Mat Ryan in goal. This is as incisive as they have looked all game in the final third. Might they upset Australia here? A win is so crucial to Australia's hopes of progressing.
86 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Oh my, an elementary mistake from the so-far superb Rowles in defending a long ball in his own half almost gets Tunisia in... but his fellow centre-half Souttar is there to cut out the danger with a superbly timed tackle on the edge of the box. Not sure it would have been a brilliant chance as he got his shot away, but it might...
And Souttar makes another crucial block from Sliti.
84 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Abdi shoots from distance on the volley... it's a good, well-directed effort from there but bounces a couple of yards in front of Ryan who claims cleanly. Those chances don't go in often. They don't end up on target all that often, either.
Australia finding a bit more space now as Tunisia commit. They make another two substitutions: Mabil on for Goodwin and Baccus on for Leckie.
82 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
A question from Tunisia over a potential penalty there... it is considered but then dismissed. Not sure what it was over.
81 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Into the final 10 minutes of normal time now, but Tunisia's challenge is fading. There will likely be six, seven or even eight minutes of added time as we have seen at this World Cup, so all is not lost. But not really sure a draw would be a fantastic result. Of course, it would be from here.
Souttar clears from another dangerous Tunisia attack. Corner. How good has he been?
79 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Do Tunisia deserve to lose this game? Not as it stands. You don't always get what you deserve in football. Look at Canada against Belgium the other day. Tunisia have not had the quality in front of goal, though. It's not like Australia have had heaps of chances, but Duke's header was wonderful. And that has been the difference.
Thom Gibbs: Tunisia have improved this half
How my colleagues laughed when I said I was off to cover the game of the day, but this has been lots of fun. You are certainly entitled to hope it is bettered by the three matches to come later, but Tunisia have been vastly improved in this half, seizing control of the middle of the pitch and managing to get fleet-footed wide forwards Sliti and Msakni on the ball more.
Jebali going off as we speak, removing their focal point, his replacement Khenissi certainly has the height to compete with the big Aussie centre backs. Still no sign of Hannibal Mejri, the highly-rated Man Utd youngster on loan at Birmingham.
75 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Two subs for Tunisia: Bronn and Jebali off to be replaced by Kechrida and Khenissi.
Mooy has a shot, on the half volley, from distance but it is sliced just over the top-right corner...
Msakni has a chance with a header in front of goal but a touch from an Australian head just puts him off...
Pulsating stuff, this game.
Degenek on for Australia. Karacic off.
72 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Australia with a chance! And a great one... MacLaren on the left drills a shot across... Leckie is there sliding in, in front of goal but cannot get his boot on it! Oof. Slightly mistimed perhaps. Not by much.
Then a chance at the other end for Tunisia, Msakni is free on the left of the box, fires a shot with his left foot but it's straight at Ryan who makes a solid save. Still Tunisia come... a shot from distance from Msakni again but it's straight into the clutches of Ryan again.
68 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Still some aerial stuff coming in from Tunisia. Karacic nods down only to Jebali but the whistle goes against Tunisia.
65 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Still Tunisia apply the pressure. Still there is no joy. Souttar shepherds the ball out as Jebali chases it. Goal kick to Australia.
63 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Looks like a change for Australia and it is fair to say they need it. A double one.
Off comes scorer Mitchell Duke, replaced by MacLaren. McGree is off and Hrustic comes on. Tunisia have a free kick on the edge of the centre circle in the Australian half.
Abdi picks up a yellow card for pulling a player back.
60 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Danger for Australia! Msakni with a cross/shot in from the left... it's heading goalwards I think but Mat Ryan gets a big glove on it to avert the danger. Goodwin is caught on the ball in midfield. Australia still struggling a little and under pressure.
This will help. Sub Sassi has a shot from distance and I am not sure it goes out of play any closer than where he took the shot. Dreadful.
59 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Australia looking a little sharper now. Back and forth from one end to the other at the moment, though without a great deal of excitement in front of goal.
56 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Karcic charges down the right, sending a cross in towards Duke's head... he can only glance it sideways this time and Goodwin cannot keep the ball in play.
53 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Another free kick in a similar position but Australia clear, though the defending from Mooy looked a little desperate and panicked. Australia pretty strong in the air at the back, the route may have to be along the ground if Tunisia are to find a way through. It worked in the first half a couple of times.
51 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Jebali has been excellent and he wins a free kick about 35 yards out, in the centre. It's a well-placed cross over to the left of the box but Ryan comes and punches well to clear the danger. Not sure Australia will be able to cling on for another 40-odd minutes, but the game has changed complexion since they went ahead. Tunisia definitely well on the front foot now.
48 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Tunisia have started brightly, strongly and aggressively in this half. They need to. One point after two games would not see them eliminated, but it would put them in a bit of a pickle with France up next.
46 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
An early corner for Tunisia but Souttar heads it away and strongly. Sassi on for Drager for Tunisia and that is the only change for either side at the interval.
KICK OFF: SECOND HALF
We are under way again. I expect an explosive second half. At least at the start of it.
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Thom Gibbs' half-time verdict
Nothing obviously wrong with that supposed foul on Aussie keeper Mat "one t" Ryan on about 40 mins was there? Didn't matter in any case, as the Tunisian was too busy lamenting a missed chance to realise Ryan had spilt the ball.
Australia have been by far the better team but they could really do with a second goal, Tunisia have the look of a side who could rouse themselves to victory if they can nick an equaliser.
The big striker Jebali is a handful, but Rowles and Souttar have the beating of him in the air. Tunisia have seemingly worked out that they're better off working it on the ground through wide areas, and were knocking on the door towards the end of the half.
HALF-TIME: Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Some nervy moments for Australia at the end there, but they go in with the lead that they need.
45+4 mins - Tunisia 0 Australia 1
No doubt this is Tunisia's finest period of the game. Australia clinging on a bit here, Tunisia creating chances and causing some havoc at the back.
45+3 mins - Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Maybe this is Tunisia's best chance of the game. Jebali with a lovely cross into Msakni running in at the near post but his glancing shot is wide... should have done better. Maybe not quite as good as Drager's chance earlier on, but he should have found the target.
45+2 mins - Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Goodwin in from the right, with his left. Jebali wins it first time though and it ends up either as a goal kick or a free kick to Tunisia.
45 mins - Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Five minutes of added time here and an Australia corner...
43 mins - Tunisia 0 Australia 1
This is better from Tunisia. Forcing the game a bit more, as you would expect. Both sides looking fairly dangerous. It's quick stuff, both sides charging in hard. Abdi scuffs a clearance from an aerial cross and it falls for Karacic on the right of the box but he also scuffs his shot sideways. Poor all round, but dangerous play from Tunisia.
40 mins - Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Mooy nearly finds Leckie charging into the box on the left edge but Talbi makes a crucial tackle before he could get his shot away.
And it's nearly 1-1 with a goal at the other end! ... Jebali is in the box in a great position, and squares it to Drager. He shoots low but Souttar blocks brilliantly to keep Australia in the lead. Crucial.
38 mins - Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Msakni has a run through the Australian defence on the right, he keeps going and lets a shot fly but it is blocked close in. Drager is down on the floor after being caught with a trailing boot in his face as he challenged for a ball. Accidental and not really reckless... he was crouching down as the Australian player (not sure who it was) was jumping to get the ball. Painful, though, I'm sure.
36 mins - Tunisia 0 Australia 1
It has been a bit... bitty since the goal, but that will suit Australia, though I am sure they want to remain on the front foot and pressure their opponents more, as they have been doing all half.
Thom Gibbs on Duke's goal
Loved how Mitchell Duke took that goal, adjusting to the deflection of the cross by Craig Goodwin and intelligently spiriting it past Aymen Dahmen and in. Nothing less than 'straylya deserve, they have dominated, although Tunisia have shown the same potential for suckerpunching as they occasionally hinted at against Denmark.
Skhiri looking like their most likely provider in midfield. Their touch, ball retention and success when challenging Australia for loose balls will need to improve if they're going to get anything other than a prize for best fans at this World Cup.
32 mins - Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Duke gets another hard challenge put on him. He goes down and then Hannibal from the Tunisia bench boots the ball back at him as he lies on the ground. Duke not the happiest. Reminds me of that Robin van Persie incident vs Swansea all those years back... very vaguely.
28 mins - Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Talbi catches Duke on the knee who looks like he might need treatment, but he does not. Full commitment from Australia so far.
26 mins - Tunisia 0 Australia 1
Australia have been the better side so far and that goal is, on the balance of play, about right. Does not always or even often work out like it should, though. How will Tunisia play now? After a creditable draw against Denmark another point at best is not ideal with France coming up next.
GOAAAAAAL! Australia take the lead
That, though, is the quality Australia wanted and needed! Duke with a perfectly placed header from a deflected Goodwin cross!
Some great build-up play in the centre of the park, the ball goes out to Goodwin on the left. His low cross is deflected off the bottom of Tunisian boot but it loops up and Mitchell Duke nods in a glancing header past the outstretched left arm of Dahmen and into the inside side netting. Lovely header.
Tunisia 0 Australia 1
22 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 0
This has not been a game of the highest quality so far... but it is the World Cup.
20 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 0
Tunisia get a counter attack going and it nearly comes off to create a chance. A run through the middle and the ball is nearly squared to Msakni waiting in the middle but he can only nudge it out for a goal kick. Some good Australian defending.
Drager then has a crack from 23 yards out for Tunisia. It's well hit and he was in space but it's about three or four yards over the crossbar...
17 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 0
Duke goes up for a header to challenge Bronn for a high ball but lands awkwardly on his back. Nothing serious but probably a bit painful. He gets back up and is involved shortly after.
16 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 0
A few free-kicks already and a few full-blooded tackles flying in from both sides.
Tunisia finally get a bit of a break from defending in their own half and string a handful of passes together. It does not last too long.
13 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 0
Tunisia are going to try and win this on the counter attack. Australia might need to be very patient.
11 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 0
It's all Australia at the moment. No real chances yet, but plenty of crosses flying in, especially from Goodwin on the left.
9 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 0
This is better from Australia. Tunisia having to defend in the early stages. They did that very well against Denmark. The crowd remains vocal in their support of their men, though, as they attack on the counter with Abdi... his touch is far too heavy, though, and Soutter snuffs out the danger.
5 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 0
It has been a while since Australia progressed beyond the groups stages of a World Cup, though they have qualified for every one since 2006.
They attack on the left with Goodwin... his cross is well defended. Mooy is then fouled on the ball about 25 yards out, forward of the left edge of the box. A potentially dangerous position. The cross comes in from Mooy but Talbi clears.
2 mins: Tunisia 0 Australia 0
Mostly Tunisia in the early exchanges for what it's worth. Seems like there is a small but significant section of the crowd in the gold shirts of the Socceroos, but it's the majority for Tunisia. Australia almost get an attack going down the left with Behich but he ends up conceding a throw to the opposition when heading towards the corner flag.
Australia get us under way. The pitch has one of those dreaded shadows across a good two-thirds of it. The (Tunisia-supporting part of the) crowd sound pretty lively early on.
It's nearly time
Who is your, theoretical, money on? Australia need to win to keep their hopes alive.
Our man on the ground
By Thom Gibbs
Morning / afternoon from Al Janoub stadium, a beautiful curving chrome petal of a stadium from the outside, utterly incongruous in the middle of vast nothingness around it. Inside it's a fairly standard two-tiered bowl, with Tunisians in good number and voice behind both goals.
A small pocket of Aussies in yellow in the corner to my right. A must-win game for them if they have any designs on getting out of this group, but I quite fancy Tunisia. They're well-backed here (fan-wise, don't think gambling is allowed) and looked pleasingly up for it in their 0-0 with Denmark in game one.
We're just enjoying a disastrous cover of Lenny Kravitz's Are You Gonna Go My Way from an unfortunate guitar fella, sounds like his drum backing track has been plugged into the wrong input, so it's a clipping distorted mess through the PA. Whistles and jeers as he finishes, one Aussie bloke on the big screen puts his hands on his ears. Camera quickly cuts away.
The warm-ups are in full swing
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And Australia's line-up
Starting XI: Ryan, Karacic, Souttar, Rowles, Behich, McGree, Mooy, Irvine, Leckie, Duke, Goodwin
Substitutes: Degenek, Tilio, Wright, Maclaren, Hrustic, Mabil, Redmayne, Devlin, Vukovic, Deng, Kuol, King, Cummings, Baccus
Tunisia's team for today
Starting XI: Dahmen, Bronn, Meriah, Talbi, Drager, Skhiri, Laidouni, Abdi, Sliti, Lebali, Msakni
Substitutes: Mathlouthi, Ifa, Ghandri, Mejbri, Khazri, Kennisi, Maaloul, Sassi, Ben Romdhane, Chaalali, Jaziri, Kechrida, Ben Said, Ben Slimane, Hassen
Good morning, crunch game for both sides here today
Welcome to our live coverage for the first of the second round of Group D games: Tunisa vs Australia. It's fair to say that both teams could do with a win here. Tunisia achieved a creditable 0-0 draw with Denmark in their opening game which leaves them on one point. Their final group game is against defending world champions France, though, so you would expect that to be a difficult one to win. And getting through on two points looks unlikely.
Tunisia had a heart-in-mouth moment towards the end of their opening game, with the referee called to the video screen to look at a potential penalty incident. But Cesar Ramos stuck with his decision and turned down the Denmark penalty appeal.
Australia also need a result. They played France in their opening group game and came off second best. Although they took the lead in the first 10 minutes, it was all downhill from there, with France scoring another four unanswered goals in a little over 45 minutes, with Olivier Giroud on the scoresheet twice.
That draws him level as the country's top goalscorer with none other than Thierry Henry. Kylian Mbappe also opened his 2022 World Cup account. Australia, though, have a better chance against Tunisia today – a side ranked just eight places above them, rather than the 34 places of France.
Australia's Head Coach Head coach Graham Arnold felt his team gave everything against a better side.
"I think at the end of the day the quality of the French team, they are the previous world champions for a reason," he said.
"I thought that we started the game very well, physically though they are just so much bigger and faster and stronger than us today, but overall the boys did all that they could and that was all I could ask.
"That is that game gone, it is good that the other game [Tunisia v Denmark] was a draw, now it is about winning on Saturday and we have to get ready for it."
The game kicks off at 10am GMT and we will be here for the build-up, latest updates and reaction. We will also have the team news shortly.