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.”


Enable sets her sights on historic Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hat-trick

Updated 1 min 58 sec ago
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Enable sets her sights on historic Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hat-trick

  • Prince Khalid Abdullah-owned filly out to become first horse to win three Arcs.
  • Enable has already become the first horse to win the Arc and Breeders Cup Turf in the same season.

LONDON: It has been confirmed that Enable will bid to make history when the star filly aims to become the first horse to win three Prix de l’Arc de Triomphes.
The Prince Khalid Abdullah-owned four-year-old made it back-to-back Arc wins last month, before going on to become the first horse to win the Breeders Cup Turf in the same season. After that victory in the US the team refused to say whether Enable would remain in training as a five-year-old and seek out an unprecedented Arc hat-trick.
But having mulled over all the pros and cons, Teddy Grimthorpe has revealed that the star horse would hope to win Europe’s most prestigious race for an historic third time.
“We are pleased to announce that dual Arc winner and recent Breeders’ Cup heroine Enable will stay in training for 2019,” Grimthorpe, racing manager to Prince Khalid Abdullah, said in a statement. “A third Arc will be her main target.”
Trained by John Gosdon, Enable became the eighth twice winner of the Arc at Longchamp last month, and she will now attempt to succeed where the previous seven have failed.
The fact that Enable is in a position to try to make history has come of a bit of a surprise. She missed much of this season having suffered an injury in the spring. But wins at Kempton Park, the Arc and then the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs in Kentucky have extended her winning run to nine races. AN