Tunisia qualified for the fifth time in its history for the FIFA World Cup, a qualification that has been achieved somewhat easily but definitely well deserved by the Tunisian national team.
The Tunisian team outclassed their group (A) with an undefeated campaign of 14 points without any losses (4 wins and 2 draws). They will be going back to the World Cup after missing the 2010 and 2014 world cups.
It is a great achievement as the whole technical staff and the Tunisia Football Federation came together to work for the betterment of the team and the country, the understanding and the requirements were clear from the beginning of the campaign.
The qualification for the World Cup 2018 in Russia will have a lot of benefits for Tunisia as a country and its football.
Thanks to its excellent track record, the Tunisian team climbed up to 28th place in the FIFA World Ranking and took the top of the Africa (CAF) rankings in October last month, ahead of Egypt, Senegal, DR Congo, Nigeria and Cameroon.
Moreover, the qualification for Russia 2018 will re-open the door for Tunisian player to potentially join top-level European football leagues.
European teams will certainly pay more attention to the Tunisian league and the rising stars of the country. An interest that has clearly diminished over the years and especially after the shock defeat of top Tunisian clubs (Etoile de Sahel, Esperance Tunis, Club Africain and Club Sfaxien) in the CAF club competitions.
In case everything goes well for the team until the World Cup, some of the top Tunisian players (Youssef Msakni, NaimSelliti, Ali Maaloul, Hamdi Harbaoui, Mehdi Meriah, Amine Ben Amor, Anice Badri, Oussama Haddadi and others) will be on the radar of the scouts from around the world.
The Tunisian league will again attract top African talent, both young and experienced players, seeking to move to Europe .
Financially, the Tunisian Football Federation (FTF) will garner about $14 million in bonuses, which will allow the national team to lead the preparation for the World Cup without any financial challenges and the FTF to pay part of its large and old debts to Tunisian referees and other suppliers.
Major industrial and commercial brands are already scrambling to sign sponsorship and partnership contracts with the ‘Eagles’.
Politically, and according to insiders, this achievement is a breath of fresh air for a country suffering from an acute economic crisis, political instability and a recurring fear from terrorist threats.
However, the qualification for the 2018 World Cup should not hide the huge problems that affect the Tunisian sport, football in particular. Most Tunisians have been upset by the failures of the Tunisian national football teams, from the first team to the youth teams, on all fronts during the last seven years as well as the defeat of Tunisian clubs in continental competitions.
The level of football is at its weakest since the independence of Tunisia (in 1956) and the league is regularly hit by a biased and unprofessional refereeing, regular acts of verbal and physical violence, mediocrity at the technical level and even a corrupted sports media.
The FTF is regularly hit by corruption scandals. And despite several judicial decisions over the last seven years, the federal board and its president Wadi El Jery are still controlling the country’s football.
Tunisian clubs, which are overly indebted, are under pressure and have neither the resources nor the will to provide the necessary interest to youth training, administrative restructuring and financial stability.
A fifth World Cup for Tunisia is a great achievement and a testament to the will of the Tunisian players and everyone in Tunisia expects a performance worthy of the history of the national team. The Tunisian people are not expecting the team to just make up the numbers, but to fight for the country on the world stage.
A mere appearance in Russia for Nabil Maaloul and his team will not be tolerated. Only a qualification to second round (Round of 16) of the World Cup will satisfy the Tunisian fans’ expectations.
Anything else will potentially bring Tunisian football back to square one.