Tunisia hold Denmark to a goalless draw in the opener of the 2022 World Cup

Tunisia held Denmark to a goalless draw in their World Cup opener on Tuesday, kicking off their Group D campaign with a strong performance against one of the pre-tournament dark horses.

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Tunisia have never reached the World Cup finals in five previous attempts but Jalel Kadri’s side will be encouraged both by a point at the Education City Stadium and how they performed against the fancy Danes.

Since Kadri took charge of the team in January, Tunisia have only lost to Brazil and they frustrated Denmark in front of thousands of rowdy North Africans.

Christian Eriksen was largely anonymous on his return to major tournament football after nearly dying on the pitch at the European Championships last year and wilting in the face of ferocious defending.

Eriksen was the target of a big tackle in the second minute from Aissa Laidouni, who then rose to her feet and egged on the fans to make even more noise and set the tone for a fierce battle.

“This is the World Cup. This is not a small competition, it is the most important competition in the world,” Laidouni told reporters.

“I think it’s important to come out on the pitch and show determination, even with the fans we have here in Qatar. It (their support) is great and it’s also important to show them that we’re that determined.”

Denmark had come into the match as favourites, but Tunisia tore into their more brilliant opponents from kick-off and flew into tackles.

The assembled ranks of Tunisians in the stands created a crackling atmosphere, cheering every tackle and clearance.

The African side almost took the lead in the 11th minute, with Mohamed Drager’s long-range effort clipping Andreas Christensen and drifting just wide.

The Danes began to gain a foothold in the game but talisman Eriksen struggled to shake off the attention of Tunisia’s well-organised backline, and although they were put in dangerous positions, any attack could be comfortably cleared.

The Tunisians came closest to taking the lead in the opening period, Copenhagen-born Anis Ben Slimane waved offside before slotting past Kasper Schmeichel, who then ensured the scores were level at the break with a wonderful stop.

Issam Jebali managed to break through on Youssef Msakni’s clever pass but his finish was brilliantly tipped away by the onrushing Schmeichel.

Tunisia kept up the intensity but it was Denmark who had the two best chances in a tight second half.

Eriksen was denied what would have been a fine goal by Aymen Dahmen’s fingertip save in the 69th minute and from the ensuing corner, substitute Andreas Cornelius somehow headed onto the post from close range.

It probably would have won the game for Denmark as Tunisia failed to match their physical efforts with much real creativity.

After surviving a late penalty scare, the North Africans celebrated a valuable and unexpected point with their passionate supporters.

(AFP)

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