Doha: The Tunisian national team tied Denmark without goals in its opening match of the World Cup on Tuesday, at the start of its campaign in Group D with a strong performance against one of the black horses before the tournament.
Tunisia have never reached the knockout stages of a World Cup in five previous attempts, but Jalal Kadri’s side will be encouraged by a point at the Education City Stadium and their performance against the darling Danes.
Since Kadri took charge of the team in January, Tunisia have only lost to Brazil and frustrated Denmark in front of thousands of rowdy North Africans.
Christian Eriksen was largely anonymous on his return to major league football after nearly dying on the field at last year’s European Championships, wilting in the face of a ferocious defence.
Denmark had come into the match as favourites, but Tunisia stumbled into their most famous competition from kick-offs and tackles.
The crowds of Tunisians in the stands created a crackling atmosphere as they cheered every tackle and clearance.
The African team almost took the lead in the 11th minute, when Mohamed Drager’s long-range shot from Andreas Christensen drifted just wide of the goal.
The Danes started to gain a foothold in the game but mascot Eriksen struggled to get away from the attention of Tunisia’s well-organized backline and although they got into dangerous positions any attacks were comfortably snuffed out.
The Tunisians came close to taking the lead in the first half, with Copenhagen-born Anis Ben Slimane committing offside before cutting past Kasper Schmeichel, who then ensured the scores were level in the first half with a brilliant stoppage.
Issam El-Gebali managed to penetrate Youssef Msakni’s clever pass, but his final touch was deflected brilliantly by the rushing Schmeichel.
Tunisia maintained their intensity but it was Denmark who had the better of the two chances in a tight second half.
Eriksen was denied a great save by Ayman Dahmen in the 69th minute, and from a subsequent corner kick, substitute Andreas Cornelius hit the post from close range.
Christian Eriksen controlled the Danes but they struggled at times to get him on the ball. When he found a small space just outside the penalty area, his shot was saved by goalkeeper Ayman Dahmin.
“It was important to go into the match with a great deal of determination,” said Al-Eidouni. “This is the World Cup, it is the most important competition in the world. The fans in Qatar are amazing and it was important to show them that we are determined and we want to give everything.”
Hjulmand will be sweating as midfielder Thomas Delaney’s knee injury forced him off in the first half.
Perhaps that would have won the match against Denmark because Tunisia failed to match their physical efforts with much real creativity.