England v Tunisia: Stevenage boss Dino Maamria previews World Cup Group G clash in Volgograd
PUBLISHED: 13:16 18 June 2018 | UPDATED: 13:56 18 June 2018
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The World Cup starts in earnest for Three Lions fans on Monday evening when England take on Tunisia in Group G – and CometSport has been talking exclusively with Stevenage boss Dino Maamria about their eagerly-awaited clash against the country of his birth.
The popular 47-year-old manager at Broadhall Way was born in the city of Gafsa in the southwest of the North African country – and is an expert on the republic’s footballers.
With Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions set to face their Group G rivals in the Russian city of Volgograd after the weekend, Maamria has been busy assessing coach Nabil Maaloul’s side for us.
With Maaloul’s default formation 4-3-3, Tunisia’s three creative midfielders, Ferjani Sassi, on the left side, Montpellier’s Ellyes Skhiri in the middle and Ghailene Chaalali on the right, England will have to be careful of their attacking threat.
Maaloul’s men gained a coveted spot in Russia after a goalless draw against Libya in November. There was late drama in their group as rivals DR Congo, the only team who could catch Tunisia, failed to grab a berth in the finals despite a last-gasp 3-1 victory over Guinea.
Tunisia’s coach, who played for Hannover 96 between 1989 and 1991, will lead the country to their fifth World Cup, but their first since the 2006 tournament hosted by Germany.
Speaking exclusively to CometSport at the club’s training ground Bragbury End before the global jamboree started, Maamria previewed the match saying: “I asked my son, ‘who do you want to win between England and Tunisia?’
“He told me: ‘Daddy, can we have both teams win the match?’ I said unfortunately, no, we can’t. Then he asked me who do I want to win the game?
“I want him to be happy so I said, ‘whatever team you want to win, so do I!’
“Seriously though, I think it will be a tough game for England but I have been very impressed with Gareth.
“I met him when I was doing my badges [during the U21 European Championship when Maamria had to compile dossiers on England’s opponents] and he was a clever guy. A good guy.
“Why can’t England go all the way. Why can’t they win the trophy? I want them to win the World Cup.”
Tunisia fell to a late Iago Aspas goal to Spain a narrow win over Maaloul’s resolute side in their final World Cup warm-up in Krasnodar on Saturday.
Despite the attacking Sassi and Skhiri starting the match, a strong Spanish side struggled to break down their dogged opposition until Celta Vigo forward Aspas broke the deadlock with six minutes remaining.
Tunisia, nearly scored before the interval when Lille’s Naim Sliti missed from close range.
England will have to watch Sliti, 25, who was born in Marseille but started his career in Paris. He had a good season on loan at Dijion last term and is a rising name in French football.
Although Tunisia do not have any big names they are a young talented team.
Maaloul likes to play with a ‘False 9’ at times with Sunderland’s Wahibi Khazri – or alternatively, if he prefers to use a rugged centre-forward up top, he has the option of employing Taha Yassine Khenissi as an out-and-out striker.
However Maaloul could opt for a change of tactics and use a more solid 4-2-3-1 system with three holding players, two playmakers and a front man – which he could be expected to do against group favourites Belgium and possibly Southgate’s England.
England v Tunisia in Volgograd kicks-off at 7pm GMT on Monday evening.
For expert World Cup coverage follow @laythy29 on Twitter.