Former Tunisia defender Radhi Jaidi believes his country’s opening game of the 2018 FIFA World Cup against England will be crucial in determining whether they enjoy a successful tournament.
Tunisia, back at the World Cup finals after a 12-year hiatus, were drawn alongside the Three Lions, Belgium and Panama in Group G at Friday’s draw in Russia.
Nabil Maaloul’s side will face England in Volgograd in their first group fixture, before taking on Belgium in Moscow five days later. They will still hope to be in with a chance of qualifying for the knockout stages when they clash with World Cup debutants Panama in their final Group G game in Saransk.
Jaidi, who played at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cup and won the 2004 African Cup of Nations with Tunisia, feels a positive result in the opening game against Gareth Southgate’s England could be the confidence boost Tunisia need to cause a shock and progress to the knockout stages.
‘It will open a big door for us if we can get at least a draw to give us our first point. That will give the players the confidence to feel that they can compete,’ Jaidi told Sport360°.
‘England are sometimes nervous when it comes to the big competitions, but I feel they are starting to prove themselves and come back onto the scene with the bigger teams.
‘Then if we can get a win against Panama in the final game and we have four points, that could give us the opportunity to progress, but I think that first game is key. A positive result will give us the power and confidence for the Belgium game, to know we can compete with the top teams.
‘I think for Tunisia it is definitely a difficult group. Belgium for me are one of the contenders to win the World Cup itself and England have to be respected with the players they have got.’