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
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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.”


Who has a chance of winning the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai?

Updated 15 November 2018
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Who has a chance of winning the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai?

The European Tour’s season-ending DP World Championship gets underway in Dubai today, with all eyes on Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood. But, while the Race to Dubai might be between those two, Arab News looks at those who might spoil the party for the Italian and Englishman and win this weekend’s tournament.

Sentimental choice — Sergio Garcia
A surprise pick considering he had a shocker in Augusta trying to defend his Masters title — and missed the cut in New York and Carnoustie — but his Ryder Cup performance showed just how talented Garcia is on the biggest stages. An outsider, true, but definitely one to keep an eye on.

Dark Horse choice — Thorbjørn Olesen
The Dane has had a remarkable 2018. Supremely talented, but seemingly lacking confidence in his short game, Olesen’s rise and rise this season was topped by winning the Italian Open in June. He is in the world’s top 50 players right now. If he wins in Dubai, expect him to have a storming 2019.

Obvious choice — Rory McIlroy
He is everyone’s favoriteto win this weekend, but then again, he’s the favoriteto win most weekends. He certainly has the pedigree on the Earth Course in Dubai, having won in 2012 and 2015. But despite what the pundits say, it would still be a shock if the Northern Irishman did take the crown.

Form choice — Lee Westwood
The Englishman is on form after an emotional victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa. Also, Westwood will be playing a course he knows well following his victory on the Earth Course in 2009. He would be a crowd favorite too, given his previous successes in the UAE.