Tunisia take heart out of England defeat with Belgium match looming

Syam Ben Youssef challenges Raheem Sterling for the ball during Tunisia's Group G clash with England at the 2018 World Cup. (AFP)
Updated 19 June 2018
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Tunisia take heart out of England defeat with Belgium match looming

VOLGOGRAD: At the end, there was just emptiness. The Tunisian players sat hunched, contemplating a dramatic 2-1 defeat against England in their World Cup opener in Volgograd.
They had been the masters of their own downfall, defending set pieces laxly, allowing England’s star striker Harry Kane to score twice.
For Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul the result came as a big disappointment, losing both goals to set pieces was not in the script for a side that came into the tournament well organized and confident.
But Maaloul is staying calm and backing his players to learn from the setback and take that into Saturday’s all-important clash against Belgium.
“We learn every day, every day — that we are still far from the elite level,” Maaloul said. “We have to work, in particular physically. We practically did not win a duel against the English, who are known for this. The match was won on the set pieces.
“Height is very important in the game, in spite of the Spanish having revolutionized the game, but they have a lot of technical authority. They succeed in mastering every game and keeping up the pressure, but when you don’t have that same skill then you can’t compete.”
Belgium are ranked third in the world behind only defending world champions Germany and Brazil. On the evidence of Monday, it is likely the North Africans will struggle to impose their game against Roberto Martinez’s team and in the absence of the injured Youssef Msakni, Wahbi Khazri has been tasked with scoring the goals, but against England he endured an indifferent time.
The battle against Belgium is one the Eagles of Carthage cannot lose. Maleoul is all too aware of that and and is under no illusions as to the size of the task his side face.
“We have to score goals,” Maaloul said. “We no longer have a choice, we have to attack and we have to hit the net. Belgium are one of the favorites, the favorites in this group.
“We will try to take them on, with players like Mertens, Hazard and Lukaku up front, who are able to make the difference at any given moment.
“They also have Kevin De Bruyne a bit deeper and he is practically the best midfielder in the world at the moment, then you have two exceptional wing backs in Meunier and Carrasco — so they are an exceptional.
“We will try to play the game, we no longer have a choice. We will try to attack and to score, and to compete with this Belgian team.”
For the players the defeat to England was a case of what might have been. Having got back into the clash after England’s brilliant, energetic start to lose in the 90th minute to a set-piece strike was a bad blow to take.
“It was a cruel scenario,” said captain Wahbi Khazhri, who was substituted in the 85th minute for Saber Khalifa. “We sat back too deep in the second half and didn’t cause any problems for England in attack. We defended too much. We conceded from set pieces and they were dangerous in those situations.”
Previously, Morocco, Egypt and Nigeria had conceded all their goals in the World Cup from set pieces and Tunisia showed the same vulnerability as Africa’s losing streak continued in Russia. Twice, Kane was left totally unmarked in the Tunisian box and the Tottenham striker duly obliged, opening his World Cup account with a match-winning brace.
“These set pieces are things that you can correct, easily correct,” midfielder Ellyes Skhiri said. “When you concede a goal like that at the very last minute, it’s a blow, because we would have been satisfied with a draw,” said Naim Sliti, who disappointed on the night and was taken off on 73 minutes.
“We have to regroup and even try to win the next game. A World Cup is played over three games.”
On Saturday, Tunisia will have their backs against the wall against heavily fancied Belgium. At the last World Cup in Brazil, the Belgians entered the tournament as dark horses, but disappointed with a lacklustre 1-0 quarterfinal exit against Argentina and an underwhelming style of play. They opened their Russia World Cup with a comfortable 3-0 win against Panama in Sochi, with two goals from Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku.
“We have to maintain our own style against Belgium,” said Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. “It wasn’t easy against England. They played their game and we had to play the long ball, which is not our strength. In the next game we have to play our own game.”


Al-Khobar to host the Billiards Championships in November

Junior, Senior and Masters Championships will be held from November 19 to 27. (Supplied)
Updated 17 min 22 sec ago
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Al-Khobar to host the Billiards Championships in November

  • The two-day youth championship will begin on November 19
  • A prize of SR 4,000 ($1,000) has been set for the first four places

JEDDAH: The International Billiards and Snooker Club in Al-Khobar will host the Kingdom's Junior, Senior and Masters Championships from November 19 to 27. 

The event will also honor billiard managers from the Saudi Arabian Billiard and Snooker Federation for their role in raising the profile of the game through a variety of competitions held by the Federation across the kingdom.

The two-day youth championship will begin on November 19 with an open number of Saudi players to refine the young talents to support the national teams in the coming days. A prize of SR 4,000 ($1,000) has been set for the first four places. This will be followed by the Senior Championship, which begins on November 21 and runs for six days. The top four players will receive prizes worth SR 8,000.

The two-day Master's championships will be held on November 27, featuring the four winners of the Senior competition and eight players nominated by the coach of the national team. The top eight players will qualify to compete in upcoming elite tournaments and earn a spot in the Saudi Billiards team.