Panama and Tunisia meet in their final games of the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Thursday. THT looks at three players who could make the difference in the game.
Panama and Tunisia will bring an end to their respective FIFA World Cup 2018 campaigns when they lock horns at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk on Thursday. The match is a dead rubber, with both sides eliminated after their first two games, but will be playing for pride and a few records.
While Panama will be aiming to get their first point(s) ever in the World Cup, Tunisia are looking to record their first win in 40 years. The Hard Tackle now takes a closer look at the three players who could stand out on the day.
Felipe Baloy will go down in history as one of Panama’s greatest ever players. And, his legacy was enhanced further last weekend when he scored Los Canaleros’ first ever World Cup goal, which led to euphoric celebrations that would have had anyone who wasn’t watching the match believe that it was Panama who were about to win the game, not England.
However, the result did not really matter on the day, with history being made. On Thursday though, Panama have a decent chance of not just recording their first-ever point at the World Cup, but also their maiden win. But, that will only happen if the big leaks in defence are plugged.
The onus will thus, be on Baloy to shore up the backline and keep it organised alongside Roman Torres. At the same time, the veteran defender will also have his sights on boosting his own goal tally during set-piece situations.
From one leader to another, Wahbi Khazri has had a very mixed World Cup campaign thus far. Against England, he was uncharacteristically subdued. But the Belgium game saw Tunisia turn in a much improved outing as he had a hand in each of the goals that the North Africans scored.
No player has been involved in more World Cup goals for Tunisia than him, and he will once again be the biggest threat for his side on Thursday. Up against a Panama defence that has been extremely leaky, Khazri will surely be fancying his chances. And who knows, he could just end up leading the Eagles of Carthage to their first World Cup win in 40 years.
Speaking of Tunisia’s eagerness to get the elusive win, defence will be pivotal in ensuring all three points are sealed. However, with two of their best defenders – Syam Ben Youssef and Dylan Bronn – nursing injuries, there is a potential weakness that could be exploited by Panama. Yohan Benalouane though, might have other plans.
Set to replace Ben Youssef in the starting lineup on Thursday, Benalouane will have to don the leadership hat and keep things tight at the back, with Yassine Meriah alongside him at the heart of the Tunisia defence.
With a motivated Panama side set to take the field, it will be upon the Leicester City man to cover for the absence of the senior defender and help his side get its first win at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.