Tunisia make their return to the finals of a World Cup after missing out on the past two editions. They were among the line-up in 1998, 2002 and 2006, but failed to get out of the group in any of the three tournaments, or to even win a game; indeed, their only victory at a World Cup so far came against Mexico at Argentina 1978.
40 years on from that solitary triumph, the North Africans head to Russia 2018 on the back of a qualifying campaign in which they won four and drew two to emerge impressively from a third-round group featuring DR Congo, Libya and Guinea. Even still, they were made to wait until the final round of fixtures to book their place.
The Tunisians are a side who boast neither major stars nor even prominent players from Europe's top leagues. Many ply their trade domestically, while a number are based in France, but not at leading clubs in the country.
It's therefore little surprise that they are a team whose success has chiefly been based on defensive solidity. In several games, they have played with a five-man defence or, failing that, have opted to use two deep-lying midfielders to shield the backline.
Nevertheless, Tunisia do have attacking talent capable of running with the ball and conjuring up moments of exquisite skill, such as Youssef Msakni and Wahbi Khazri, who link up well with the hard-working Taha Yassine Khenissi at the focal point of the forward.
|Preferred system: 4-2-3-1
Nabil Maaloul is the coach responsible for taking Tunisia back to the World Cup. A former midfielder who turned out in the Bundesliga for Hanover 96 between 1989 and 1991, he has had a long coaching career in his native country. He was Tunisia's assistant coach when the country lifted the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations, before being given the top job in 2013, only for his first spell in charge to last just seven months.
However, since he was reappointed in April 2017, things have thus far gone well for Maaloul, whose side have remained unbeaten under the 55-year-old on their way to sealing World Cup qualification. His chief objective in Russia will be to end Tunisia's wait for a win; that would top off the fine job he has done as national boss.
|Height: 179 cm
|Weight: 73 kg
Right now, Msakni is Tunisia's most talented player. A winger who tends to start out on the left flank, he is nevertheless supremely effective with either foot. In 2013, the 27-year-old left ES Tunis, his country's leading club side, to join Qatari outfit Lekhwiya, where he has accrued extensive experience in the Asian Champions League.
He only featured four times in qualifying, but that proved ample opportunity for him to make his mark, particularly when his hat-trick against Guinea in the penultimate round of games left Tunisia with one foot in Russia. A good performance at the World Cup could be enough to earn him a move to Europe.