World Cup

Belgium v Tunisia preview

Belgium will close in on the last 16 of the World Cup with a victory over Tunisia in their second Group G clash on Saturday.

Roberto Martinez’s side cruised past Panama with a 3-0 victory on Monday, and another three points at the Otkrytie Arena in Moscow would seal their spot in the knockout stages should England not lose to Panama on Sunday.

The former Everton and Wigan manager was full of praise for Tunisia ahead of their meeting and warned his players they will need to up their game.

“We respect Tunisia’s threat but they’re a team that needs to come out and win the game, so they’ll make it very, very open,” he said. “In that respect, if we look after our performance, we’ll get settled into that sort of game.

“Tunisia has evolved. The players have surprised many teams. They are flexible and they are probably the most dynamic team we have faced. We need to be ourselves against them and do even better than what we did against Panama.”

Tunisia fell to a late Harry Kane header when they lost 2-1 to England earlier in the week, and manager Nabil Maaloul says he wants to rectify mistakes that were made in the opening game.

“We have to win. We have no choice,” he said. “Belgium are very strong but we are ready. We want to avoid the mistakes we made in the first match.

“Our side is capable of unlocking their defensive line. What we want is to get to the back of the Belgian line and do that quickly.”

Team news

Vincent Kompany is set to miss out again for Belgium as he continues to carry a groin injury.

For Tunisia, goalkeeper Mouez Hassen has been ruled out for the remainder of the tournament after injuring his shoulder against England.

Maaloul confirmed that he would stick with a 4-3-3 formation, although he would choose a more attacking approach.

Opta stats

This will be the fourth meeting between Belgium and Tunisia, with both nations winning one game and sharing one draw.

The most recent meeting between Belgium and Tunisia was a friendly in 2014, with Dries Mertens scoring a late winner for Belgium in a 1-0 win in Brussels.

This is Belgium and Tunisia’s second meeting at a World Cup tournament – they previously drew 1-1 in the 2002 group stages, in what was Tunisia’s only point in that edition.

Belgium are unbeaten in their three previous World Cup games against African opponents, with a draw against Tunisia in 2002 the only game they failed to win.

Belgium are unbeaten in their last 10 World Cup group games, winning the last five in a row (W5 D5 L0).

Each of Belgium’s last 11 World Cup goals have come after half-time.

Tunisia are winless in their last 12 World Cup matches (D4 L8), since beating Mexico in their first ever match in the competition (3-1 in 1978).

The last team to have a longer winless run in the World Cup than Tunisia’s current run of 12 was South Korea (14 games between 1954 and 1998).

Tunisia have scored with their only shot on target so far at this World Cup.

Only Jan Ceulemans (6) has scored more goals in major tournaments for Belgium (World Cup and European Championships) than Romelu Lukaku (5, level with Marc Wilmots).




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