France's winning run at the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar has been ended by Tunisia after the Eagles of Carthage defeated them 1-0 at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan on Wednesday. Wahbi Khazri scored the only goal of the game just before the hour-mark, yet it was not enough for Jalel Kadri's side because of.
Didier Deschamps heavily rotated his side for this clash in a bid to keep key performers fresh going into the knockout phase. Kylian Mbappe, Adrien Rabiot and Griezmann were all rested and eventually sent on as substitutes as Deschamps gave minutes to many of his reserve players.
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Marcus Thuram was ill and unable to feature, but Axel Disasi became the first French international debutant during a World Cup since 1966 while Steve Mandanda broke Bernard Lama's 22-year record as the oldest player for Les Bleus at nearly 38. However, the defending champions found it tough from the off with the likes of Eduardo Camavinga struggling in a makeshift left back role without Theo Hernandez and it was no surprise that Tunisia threatened to go ahead.
Nader Ghandri had a header ruled out for offside inside the opening 10 minutes, but it was not the only chance they had in the opening 45 as the North Africans were roared on by a strong contingent. Halftime did not see Deschamps address his side's shortcomings and the Tunisians continued to threaten as the French played at a pedestrian pace.
It was no surprise then that Khazri opened the scoring for the Eagles of Carthage just before the hour-mark as he slid the ball beyond Mandanda after being played in by Aissa Laidouni. Tunisia's first goal in Qatar had come too little too late as Australia took the lead within minutes of the Montpellier man's strike.
"It is mixed feelings because we are happy to beat a team like France," said Kadri. "We can be proud and leave with our head high, but it is a bitter victory. It would have been beautiful to beat France and reach the last 16. It is our fault for not doing what we needed to do before. I said nothing is impossible. We have been able to win over the world champions. We have been able to prove our efficiency and we did our best. We worked as a team. It was not easy for us to get these four points but we leave with a lot of honour and pride."
Khazri, like Cameroon-born Breel Embolo for Switzerland before him, scoring against his country of birth for his adopted international nation. Deschamps sent on Mbappe, Rabiot, Griezmann, William Saliba, and Ousmane Dembele in search of equalizer, but it was not enough to lift Les Bleus out of their mediocre performance.
Griezmann had a goal at the death ruled off by VAR, and it was scarcely deserved for the 2018 titleholders given how little they created. The French advance as Group D winners, but nobody expected them to lose their unbeaten record and finish level on points with the Socceroos in second.
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Tunisia will be satisfied to have beaten France on the international stage, but bitterly disappointed that their loss to the Aussies cost them a knockout phase berth. However, the French showed that despite their individual brilliance, they are not yet at the point where we should be calling them favorites to defend their title. Without Mbappe, Griezmann, Rabiot, and Dembele from the start, Deschamps' side look decidedly average.