Tunisia enjoyed a famous 1-0 win over France but it was not enough for them to advance to the knockout stages of the World Cup.
Needing a win and Denmark to avoid defeat to Australia to stand any chance, Jalel Kadri’s men fulfilled their end of the bargain with a stirring performance that was rewarded by Wahbi Khazri’s superb second-half strike.
But Australia’s 1-0 win over Denmark meant it was the Socceroos that accompanied France in qualifying from Group D.
France were already guaranteed a place in the last 16 and that was reflected in Didier Deschamps’ starting XI, Les Bleus’ boss making nine changes from the team that beat the Danes on Saturday.
France looked like a team thrown together for the most part, although Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann were sent on to rescue the situation shortly after the defending champions fell behind. Griezmann almost came up trumps but saw his stoppage-time strike ruled out for offside.
Khazri was behind most of Tunisia’s best moments and he almost helped conjure up the opener after eight minutes. His vicious, inswinging free-kick eluded the France defence and was turned in by Nader Ghandri only for his effort to be ruled out by an offside flag.
Khazri came close himself 10 minutes before the break, forcing goalkeeper Steve Mandanda to palm his long-range shot to safety.
In between, Randal Kolo Muani played in Kingsley Coman but his first touch was poor, leading him to slice his shot wide.
Khazri’s next significant involvement resulted in the opening goal. The Montpellier man, who has spent the bulk of his career playing in France, picked the ball up 40 yards from goal and slalomed his way through the France defence before slotting past Mandanda.
Deschamps turned to his big guns but they could not find a way past a resolute Tunisia defence, although they came close three times – Mbappe forcing a brilliant save from Aymen Dahmen following a wonderful piece of skill before Kolo Muani shot narrowly wide. Then, in injury time, Griezmann fired in only for VAR to intervene with the goal disallowed for offside.
What does it mean? – Reserve options struggle to make case
Few of France’s second string enhanced their claims for a starting spot in their last-16 game with only Randal Kolo Muani making an impression. Midfielders Jordan Veretout, Aurelien Tchouameni and Youssouf Fofana were particularly disappointing.
Nevertheless, France end up on top of Group D having taken six points from their two games.
Tunisia finished third and miss out by two points.
Kolo Muani makes his mark
A late call-up to the squad to replace the injured Christopher Nkunku, Kolo Muani was handed the chance to impress with Mbappe and Olivier Giroud rested for the bigger challenges to come.
The Eintracht Frankfurt striker fed off scraps for the majority but would have impressed Dechamps with his willingness to run the channels.
Clever Khazri has too much nous for France
Khazri has often flattered to deceive in his career but his talent is not in doubt.
Despite lasting just under an hour, Khazri led Tunisia in shots (three) and shots on target (two) from a false nine position.
France moved into the last 16 as winners of Group D. They will face the side that finishes second in Group C, which at this stage could be any one of Poland, Argentina, Saudi Arabia or Mexico.
Tunisia head home but will do so with their heads held high.
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