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.”


Premier League set to use VAR from next season

Updated 15 November 2018
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Premier League set to use VAR from next season

LONDON: The Premier League is set to use the Video Assistant Referee system from next season after clubs “agreed in principle” to the move on Thursday.
During a meeting attended by key members of all 20 Premier League clubs, officials were presented with an update on the non-live VAR trials taking place.
They were also given “key learnings” from VAR’s use in the FA Cup and League Cup this season.
VAR was used at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where 335 incidents were checked by VAR officials, and is already underway in some other European leagues.
A formal Premier League request will now be made to the International Football Association Board and FIFA, the world governing body.
A statement from the Premier League said its testing program would continue for the rest of the season, “with a continued emphasis on those Saturday afternoons which have several matches being played concurrently.”
How VAR decisions are communicated to fans in the stadium will be addressed, with the development of a “clear protocol” to be established.
In April, Premier League clubs voted against the introduction of VAR for the 2018-19 season.
But there have been growing calls from managers and players for VAR to be introduced into the English top-flight for several years.
On Saturday, Southampton forward Charlie Austin called for VAR after he was denied a goal for offside against Watford, a decision he called a “joke.”
Also last weekend, Slavisa Jokanovic, since sacked as Fulham manager, was furious after Aleksandar Mitrovic was denied a goal by a controversial offside decision, with Liverpool going straight down the other end to take the lead.
VAR is used to check goals, penalties — both awarded and not, direct red cards and cases of mistaken identity when a player is wrongly booked or sent off.
The referee has the information relayed through his earpiece by the VAR team.
For some incidents, he can review the footage on a pitch-side television monitor before deciding whether to change his initial call.