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Khazri ends Tunisia's long wait for finals win

29 June 2018

Tunisia have achieved their target at the World Cup because they arrived in Russian Federation fully aware the best they could hope for was to finish third in their group, coach Nabil Maaloul said after their 2-1 victory over Panama on Thursday.

Panama had taken the lead in the 33rd minute through an own-goal when Jose Luis Rodriguez's hard shot deflected off of a Tunisia player that sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.

Fakhreddine Ben Youssef grabbed the equaliser for the north African side with a simple tap-in from a Wahbi Khazri cross into the box.

But it was tough for Panama, making their first appearance in a World Cup finals, and for their fans in the Monrovia Arena who for a while could dream of a historic win.

"When we landed in this group we knew our best hope will be to come third".

Panama had taken the lead in the first half on an own-goal by Yassine Meriah, the World Cup record ninth own-goal.

The Carthage Eagles have already crashed out of the tournament having lost their first two group games to England and Belgium.

Playing out the dead rubber in Saransk, it was a slick passing move that concluded with Khazri, the Sunderland forward, sliding a ideal pass across the face of goal for Ben Youssef to lift into the net from close range.

The match was evenly poised in the opening exchanges, with both sides signalling their intent to get goals early on.

But they played for pride in a spirited duel and the fervour of the more than 37,000 fans in the Mordovia Arena belied the notion that this was a pointless match between to two lowly nations.

Tunisia had not won a World Cup game since a 3-1 victory over Mexico in 1978.

"Perhaps in the second match we should have been better", the coach said. We shouldn't have been so offensive and conceded so many goals. "Our performance against England was very good, we were level with them technically".

Khazri ends Tunisia's long wait for finals win