Heartbreak for Tunisia as win over holders France not enough for knockout qualification

It was bittersweet for Tunisia, who had never reached the knockout stages in five previous attempts.
Heartbreak for Tunisia as win over holders France not enough for knockout qualification

SHOCK: Wahbi Khazri’s goal earned Tunisia a famous victory over France (Jonathan Brady/PA)

TUNISIA 1 (Khazri 58) FRANCE 0 

Humiliation for France and heartbreak for Tunisia, as the world champions were beaten by the North African side, who then discovered they had failed to reach the last 16 because Australia had also won and went through as Group D runner-up.

Wahbi Khazri, Tunisia's veteran striker and captain, scored the game's only goal in the 58th minute to cause the latest upset in this topsy-turvy tournament, but Tunisia's position as the second-placed side in Group D lasted only two minutes before Mathew Leckie scored Australia's winner against Denmark.

It was bittersweet for Tunisia, who had never reached the knockout stages in five previous attempts. Their consolation was a famous victory against their former colonial masters, whom they had only beaten once before, in a friendly tournament over half a century ago.

They thoroughly deserved their victory as Didier Deschamps gambled on putting out what was effectively a reserve side, with nine changes from the starting line-up that beat Denmark. 

Raphael Varane and Aurelien Tchouameni were the only regulars, meaning fringe players had a chance to impress. But with the exception of Real Madrid's Eduardo Camavinga, they blew it as Tunisia blew them away.

Tunisia took the game to France from the start and could have been two or three ahead by half-time but for better finishing. Nader Ghandri thought he had scored in the ninth minute when he flicked home a free-kick from the left but was flagged offside.

There was no dispute about Khazri's all important goal in the 58th minute, however. Youssouf Fofana was tackled in the centre-circle by the excellent Ellyes Skhiri, and Khazri took off towards goal. 

Varane made a half-hearted attempt to stop him, but the striker swerved to the left and planted a left-footed shot low past goalkeeper Steve Mandanda. 

The ball had barely hit the back of the net before the stadium erupted in a sea of red as Tunisia's supporters celebrated possibly the most memorable goal in their history.

Deschamps quickly made changes in an attempt to avoid a humiliating defeat, sending on Kylian Mbappe, Adrien Rabiot and later Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele. Mbappe tried his best, with a burst down the byline and stinging shot that was superbly saved by Aymen Dahmen in the 89th minute. 

The Tunisian keeper then turned away a long shot by Randal Kolo Muani, and when he was finally beaten by a Griezmann volley in the eighth minute of stoppage time, the goal was ruled out for offside after VAR intervened.

The final whistle blew seconds later, but Tunisian celebrations were muted. Yes, they had beaten the old enemy, but failing to reach the last 16 when it was so agonisingly close must have felt like failure.

France go through as group winners, but this result shows the squad depth is not as good as we may have thought, and it is another negative mark on their World Cup record.

TUNISIA (3-4-3): Dahmen 7; Ghandri 7, Meriah 7, Talbi 7; Kechrida 7, Skhiri 8, Laidouni 7, Maaloul 7; Slimane 7 (Abdi 84), Khazri 9 (Jebali 59) Ben Romdhane 8 (Chaaleli 74) 

FRANCE 4-1-3-2: Mandanda 6; Disasi 5, Konate 6, Varane 5 (Saliba 63), Veretout 6 (Rabiot 63) ; Tchouameni 6; Fofana 5 (Griezmann 73), Guendouzi 5 (Dembele 79), Camavinga 7; Kolo Muani 5, Coman 6 (Mbappe 63) 

Referee: Matthew Conger (New Zealand) 9/10

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