Apologetic Tunisia coach says Arab teams have long way to go

Reuters , Saturday 23 Jun 2018,
Soccer Football - World Cup - Group G - Belgium vs Tunisia - Spartak Stadium, Moscow, Russia - June 23, 2018 Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul gestures during the match REUTERS

Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul apologised to his team's fans after their 5-2 World Cup defeat to Belgium on Saturday and said Arab teams have a long way to go before they can compete at the highest level.

Tunisia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have lost all eight of their matches between them at the World Cup and the latter three have already been eliminated. Tunisia, meanwhile, have only a remote mathematical chance of progressing.

Maaloul conceded that the scoreline was "ridiculous" although his team's performance was not as they extended their 40-year World Cup winless run to 13 games since they beat Mexico at the 1978 tournament.

"We would like to apolgise to the Tunisian fans who were numerous in the stadium and we will try to improve in the future," said Maaloul, according to the official translation.

"We have to be honest, a 5-2 scoreline is ridiculous but we were not ridiculous in the way we played. If you look at ball possession, we did not do too badly.

"It's very difficult to win against players who can make the difference at any moment with good passes and through balls.

"I've said ever since we drew this group that Belgium would be very tough opponents.

"They would have scored more had it not been for our goalkeeper (Farouk Ben) Mustapha who played superbly."

Maaloul said that it would take two generations for Arab football to catch up.

"We did not disappoint the Arab world, we did not give up on our Arab fans," he said.

"We have common problems, I don't think we have high quality performance, we need to change our lifestyle because it is not in line with high-level football, we need to change the way we train."

"We need two more generations to reach (the top) level of performance in terms of fitness and physical strength. We are far from the required level."

Maaloul said his life was not made any easier after two defenders -- Dylan Bronn and Syam Ben Youssef -- both went off injured before halftime.

"When you have to change that many players, you put more pressure on defenders," he said.

"We conceded a goal right at the beginning and then a second. We scored so we improved, but the third goal came at a important time so it affected the morale of our players and the substitutions also confused us."

(For more sports news and updates and a special World Cup 2018 coverage, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports)

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