Tunisia focused on ensuring World Cup qualification

Youssef Msakni has ordered his teammates to ensure World Cup qualification at home to Libya today. (AFP)
Updated 11 November 2017
0

Tunisia focused on ensuring World Cup qualification

LONDON: Tunisia may only need a point against Libya to guarantee a place at next year’s World Cup, but Youssef Msakni has told his team that’s no excuse to take their foot off the gas.
The Carthage Eagles go into today’s clash on top of African qualifying Group A thanks to an impressive run of form that has seen Nabil Maaloul’s men record four wins and one draw from their five matches so far. That means they go into the game in Rades tonight on the verge of their fifth appearance at the finals and first since 2006.
Although it is hard to imagine Tunisia failing against Libya — who have just one win from their five Group A matches — a 1-0 defeat coupled with a 1-0 win for DR Congo over Guinea in Kinshasa would send the central Africans to Russia. And that combined with the fact Libya will prove no easy test tonight has led Msakni to warn his teammates against complacency.
“We’re not afraid of Libya, but we have to be wary because they have a history and it’s never easy to play against them,” the Tunisia forward said.
“I don’t remember us ever beating them easily, or them beating us easily. These games always end up finishing 1-0 or 2-1.
“This match is a matter of life and death for the Tunisia team. We’ll need to be well prepared and focused right from kick-off.”
Anticipating a tight contest Msakni has called on the crowd, desperate to see their team make next summer’s showpiece in Russia, to become the extra man and cheer Tunisia to victory.
“It’s always wonderful to give our supporters something to cheer and to hear them chanting ‘Tunisia, Tunisia,’” he said.
“I ask them all to come to the stadium in Rades and support us against Libya.”

The sharpshooter has been one of the key men for the Carthage Eagles. He scored a hat-trick in the 4-1 win in Guinea and is enjoying his time in the spotlight on what he hopes will be his way to the World Cup.
“There’s no secret,” Msakni said. “I’m working extra hard in training and the rest is down to God. Added to that, the quality of my team-mates is another reason for my success. And the coach, Nabil Maaloul, has also given me more freedom on the pitch.”
But he is all too aware that it will take more than a good game from him to ensure qualification. Msakni has been impressed with Tunisia’s midfield and knows they’ll have to be on the top of their game to make sure tonight’s test against Libya doesn’t turn into a nervy affair.
“The Tunisia team has played with real determination in the last few games, and that’s down to the three players in midfield,” he said. “Ferjani Sassi, Ghailene Chaalali and Mohamed Amine Ben Amor have all made it possible for us to move forward, and they’ve brought us what we were lacking.”


Andres Iniesta nets reported $30m salary in Japan and vows to conquer Asia

Updated 7 min 58 sec ago
0

Andres Iniesta nets reported $30m salary in Japan and vows to conquer Asia

  • 'This is a big challenge for me'
  • Iniesta wants success in the AFC Champions League

KOBE, Japan: Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta on Saturday made his first appearance at Vissel Kobe since signing for the Japanese side, greeting thousands of fans and vowing to make his new club the biggest in Asia.
Wearing the number eight shirt — like he did at Barcelona — the 34-year-old World Cup winner attended a welcome ceremony at the J-League club’s home stadium in the western port city of Kobe, together with team owner Hiroshi Mikitani.
“This is a big challenge for me,” Iniesta told some 4,000 fans through an interpreter two days after signing his contract at a glitzy unveiling in Tokyo.
He displayed his ball-juggling technique and kicked footballs into the crowd, delighting fans.
“I aim to contribute to the team as much as possible,” said Iniesta, who is reported to have agreed a three-year deal with an annual salary of $30 million, a J-League record.
“I think I should pursue the best objectives in both football and my life,” he added, saying he wants Vissel to win the league and “if possible, conquer Asia.”
The midfielder, who famously scored Spain’s winning goal against the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup final, lifted 32 major trophies and made 674 appearances for Barcelona.
The Spain icon’s decision to choose Kobe arguably represents Japanese football’s biggest transfer coup, with many top players now moving to cash-rich Chinese clubs in the twilight of their careers.
Iniesta had said earlier this month that moving to a Chinese club was also an option for him.
His signing is a timely boost to the J-League, which used to attract luminaries such as Brazilian great Zico and former England star Gary Lineker when it began in 1993 but has struggled to attract marquee players in recent years.
Following the World Cup in Russia, Iniesta will join former Arsenal striker Lukas Podolski at Vissel, currently sixth in the J-League first division after 15 games.