Tunisia Target Knockout Stage in Russia 2018 World Cup: Maaloul

Tunisia Target Knockout Stage in Russia 2018 World Cup: Maaloul
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Published January 16th, 2018 - 15:07 GMT via SyndiGate.info

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Tunisia's national football team
Tunisia's national football team

Tunisia's national coach Nabil Maaloul said on Monday that the Carthage Eagles would aim at reaching the knockout stage for the first time in the 2018 World Cup this year.

Maaloul was speaking at Aspire Zone, where the Tunisian national team is preparing for the World Cup with a 14-day winter training camp.

Tunisia has never won a game and never gone beyond the group stage in their four World Cup appearances (1978, 1998, 2002 and 2006). Russia 2018 could prove tougher with their opening game against England in Group which also has Belgium and Panama.

On his country's chances in the group, Maaloul said:"We have good players and we're preparing very hard to increase our chances of going beyond the group stage. We are in a very difficult group, playing 5th ranked Belgium and 15th ranked England."

"We are a little bit far from the English and Belgians but we have had a good preparation. We are thinking of the very simple things to reduce the differences between us and the other teams," he said.

"With the World Cup in Russia five months away, our purpose is to make sure we put on an honourable performance that will make Tunisians and all Arabs proud. To do that, we need to change the mentality of the players and equip them with a professional attitude to prepare them emotionally for the competition."

Maaloul revealed that the biggest threat to his team in their June 15 opener against England is not Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane but Manchester City's Raheem Sterling.

"The most distinctive player for me is Sterling, I think he is one of the best wing players,"Maaloul said.

"People say that Harry Kane is the biggest risk but I think Raheem Sterling is the one. He is the biggest threat as a player."

Speaking about the English Three Lions, he said:"It's a young team, it's changed in recent years. English football has changed a great deal after coaches like Guardiola and Conte arrived."

Asked about the training camp facilities at Aspire Zone, Maaloul said: "This isn't our first time in Aspire, we've entered a previous training camp in 2013."

"We're fortunate to have been given the opportunity from Aspire Zone and the Tunisian Football Federation to come here for training. The training camp has been successful on all levels. It's great to be able to have access to such world-class facilities, and medical and hospitality services that are perfectly placed in one place. Aspire Zone has provided us with everything we need, and the training was made even better thanks to the amazing weather. The facilities in Aspire Zone are unlike any other in the world, and they are among the best in the world. We're very happy with the support we've received from the people in Qatar, particularly Tunisian residents who were keen to attend our training session for support."

Meanwhile, goalkeeper and national team captain Aymen Mathlouthi said:"We've been in Doha for 15 days and everyone's been very pleased with our time here. We're currently focusing on honing our technical skills and get the necessary medical assessments completed to ensure we're as fit as we can be."

Aspire Zone's Mohammed Mubarak al Kuwari, Chief Marketing Officer at AZF, said:"We're honoured to have the Tunisian national team train here at Aspire, and we congratulate them on their World Cup qualification."This training camp shortly follows the recently concluded training camps for FC Bayern Munich and PSG. Aspire Zone is proud to house various elite training camps each year in line with their mission to elevate sports in Qatar and become the reference in sports excellence worldwide by 2020."

By Ikoli Victor

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