Tunisia To Face Botswana With Heavily Modified Roster
With our next 2012 AFCON qualifier just over a week away, Bertrand Marchand revealed his 21 man roster for the sub-Saharan trip at FTF headquarters today. As we already knew, injuries to Issam Jemaa and Sami Allagui have decimated our strike force (which already wasn’t the deepest) and the timing of the match is such that even some players who we wanted to call up weren’t available due to conflicting club commitments. Before the analysis, the list is below:
Goalkeepers: Aymen Mathlouthi (Etoile), Farouk Ben Mustapha (CAB), Rami Jeridi (Stade Tunisien)
Defenders: Ammar Jemal (Young Boys), Karim Saidi (FC Tours), Alaeddine Yahia (RC Lens), Khaled Souissi (CA), Anis Boussaidi (PAOK), Khalil Chammam (Esperance)
Midfielders: Fahid Ben Khalfallah (Bordeaux), Tijani Belaid (Slavia Prague), Ousemma Darragi (Esperance), Zouhaier Dhaouadi (CA), Khaled Korbi (Esperance), Majdi Traoui (Esperance), Wissem Ben Yahia (CA), Chaker Zouaghi (FC Zurich)
Strikers: Ahmed Akaichi (Etoile), Lamjed Chehoudi (Etoile), Amine Chermiti (FC Zurich), Saber Khlifa (Esperance), Youssef Mouihbi (CA)
The aformentioned hamstring injuries to both Issam Jemaa and Sami Allagui are obviously the greatest cause for concern and Marchand has responded by re-calling Ahmed Akaichi and giving Saber Khlifa a look since he’s been playing regularly for Esperance. If you’re wondering why Lassad Nouioui didn’t make the list instead of one of these two than look no further than conflicting club commitments: Depo play on Sunday night and that’s when we leave for Botswana so he couldn’t make the flight. The same goes for Chaouki Ben Saada who scored a stunning winner for Nice this past weekend.
It’s going to be a long trip too. We go to N’Djamena first, then Johannesburg for a night (hey we’re in South Africa, just five months late!), and then Gaborone. We’ll basically be in Botswana two days before the match and train there twice. This is why we wanted the game rescheduled for December but the Zebras refused since it’s advantageous to them to play it asap (we would have done the same thing to them). So not only are injuries forcing us into roster choices we don’t want to make but so is the horrendous scheduling of this match (and of this entire five team group honestly. Damn you CAF). Furthermore, club vs. country consideration didn’t just affect our expats but CSS players were also overlooked for this reason.
In any case, the replacements aren’t anything to frown at even though they’re not as established as Jemaa or Allagui. Akaichi has potential and scored this weekend while Khlifa is one of the key players who helped us qualify for the CHAN with an excellent header in Rabat against Morocco some months ago. I like him more when he plays up top on his own, I think that’s when he’s most effective but wouldn’t that infringe on Chermiti’s strengths too? It’ll be interesting where Marchand deploys the former Hammam Lif forward and if he even starts or even plays at all.
Meanwhile, the long lost Tijani Belaid, who is finally over his hyperthyroidism issues, has benefited from Ben Saada’s unavailability. I find this decision a little perplexing as I haven’t seen any recent highlights of him or anything that would indicate he deserves to be in the NT even though he’s apparently played 445 minutes in ten appearances for Slavia this season and scored no goals. If anyone has any information on how he’s been doing please share it. Some EPL teams were interested in him this past transfer season but a move never materialized. Let’s hope he can return to his top level because he’s an interesting player for us when he’s in form (one of the best free kick takers we have).
The goalkeeping department has been overhauled as well. After his miserable showing in Lubumbashi in a very controversial match between Esperance and TP Mazembe, Wassim Nawara has been dropped in favor of the returning Aymen Mathlouthi, who will almost certainly start in Gaborone. Rami Jeridi is also back in the list since Jassem Khalloufi isn’t available.
A big bravo to Marchand for resisting the urge to call back Karim Haggui (who for too long was untouchable) even though he’s technically not suspended anymore. Marchand recognizes that our embattled captain has been struggling a great deal with Hannover and his most recent five match ban for dangerous play is evidence of that. So long as he isn’t in top shape and playing well, he doesn’t deserve to be in the team. Expect the rejuvenated Karim Saidi to start instead of him again.
Overall, one can have few complaints about the players selected considering the circumstances. What is more pressing of an issue is who will Marchand utilize in Gaborone and to what effect? The defense won’t feature many changes but we have two holes to fill in attack now. You would expect that Chermiti gets one of them almost automatically. Who does the second one go to? Akaichi, Khlifa, or Chehoudi? And will Darragi start this time even though he’ll be coming off what is sure to be an intense game against TP Mazembe?
We’ll know soon enough but what is your ideal lineup and substitutions?
Youssef Mouihbi had a fantastic game in Morocco in Club Africain’s 3-0 win over Wydad Casablanca and has earned himself a late call-up (watch for yourself!). This is excellent as no one can deny that we currently can use an extra inventive player in Gaborone. This is the convenience of having good players in your domestic league, you can call them whenever you like and don’t have to give 15 days notice.
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