Captain Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku grabbed a brace each before substitute Michy Batshuayi struck Belgium’s fifth goal in Moscow to seal Tunisia’s early World Cup exit.
Having lost 2-1 to England in their Group G opening match, Tunisia arrived at the Otkrytiye Arena with hopes of a win to recover and progress to the last 16 round.
But Maaloul was compelled to alter his defence when right back Dylan Bronn and center back Syam Ben Youssef were forced off injured in the 24th and 41st minutes respectively.
It was an almost a similar scenario as they endured against England when they lost goalkeeper Mouez Hassen in the 15th minute.
“Obviously the substitutes we had to do for our backline, for our defenders also confused us,” said Maaloul at Saturday's post-match press conference.
“So, when you have to change that many players, you put more pressure on your defenders but I think the Belgium team deserved to win.”
Bronn, the scorer of Tunisia’s first goal, was replaced by Hamdi Nagguez before Leicester City’s Yohan Benalouane came in for Ben Youssef.
Hazard opened the scoring for Belgium as early as the sixth minute from the penalty spot before Lukaku doubled for the Belgians 10 minutes later.
Tunisia's optimism was restored on 18 minutes when Bronn hit back, but Lukaku extinguished their hopes of a comeback with Belgium’s third goal in the first half injury time.
Maaloul regards the third goal as the sucker punch that sealed their fate.
“I think 80 percent of the match is based on morale so at the beginning of this match we conceded a goal and then we conceded the second but we were able to score a goal so our morale improved,” Maaloul said.
“However the third goal came at a very difficult time towards the end of the first half and it's true it affected the morale of our players.”
Saturday’s defeat condemned Tunisia to yet another unsuccessful attempt to reach the knockout round in five World Cups.
Arriving in Russia on the backdrop of good form and with high hopes of upsetting much-fancied opponents England and Russia, Tunisia’s World Cup however turned into a woeful campaign, stretching their winless tournament run to 13 games.
Their last World Cup victory dates back to their 1978 tournament opening match when they beat Mexico 3-1.
Now their hopes of salvaging some World Cup pride lie in their last match against Panama on Thursday.
Injuries have dogged them, first losing star player Youssef Msakni before the tournament began.
By Michael Madyira
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