A 58th minute goal from Wahbi Khazri helped Tunisia inflict a first-ever defeat on defending champions France but the win at the Education City Stadium was not enough to see them to the knockout stage of the FIFA World Cup as Australia piped them to the qualifying post.
Khazri’s goal went in vain as the Socceroos’ made it at the expense of the North Africans from Group D after defeating Denmark at the Janoub Stadium and made it to the knockout stage from the group along with France.
France started the World Cup in fine fashion, picking up six points from their first two games and scoring six goals in the process but finished as group leaders ahead of Australia. France, who had already qualified for the knock-out stage with two wins, ended up top despite making nine changes and producing a poor performance.
Both Australia and France finished with six points from two wins, while Tunisia took the third spot with four points from one win and one draw against Denmark, which finished at the bottom with one point.
Australia join already qualified teams France, Portugal, Brazil, Senegal and The Netherlands and will take on winners of Group C, which consists of Argentina, Poland, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.
Wednesday two other matches will see Argentina take on Poland and a winless Mexico taking on Saudi Arabia.
“It’s mixed feelings because we’re happy to beat a team like France,” Tunisia manager Jalel Kadri said.
“We can be proud and leave with our head high, but it is a bitter victory.
“It would have been beautiful to beat France and reach the last 16. It is our fault for not doing what we needed to do before.”
“I said nothing is impossible. We have been able to win over the world champions,” added Kadri.
“We have been able to prove our efficiency and we did our best. We worked as a team. It wasn’t easy for us to get these four points (in the group stage) but we leave with a lot of honour and pride.”
On Wednesday, France having already qualified for the last 16 stage opted to rest a number of players, including Hugo Lloris, Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud.
Taking a cue, the Tunisians dominated the major chunk of the opening session.
The Tunisian continued to call the shot in the second session for the major part of the second session.
Khazri struck 13 minutes into the second session. Youssouf Fofana lost the ball in midfield for France and the ball went to Khazri 30 yards from goal, he moved deep into the rival territory and dribbled into the box almost unchallenged, before slipping the ball past Steve Mandanda, 1-0.
It was only the introduction of Antonie Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe that injected some energy into the French attack.
Infact, Griezmann the Athletico Madrid man had volleyed home from 10 yards to put the teams on level terms but the goal was ruled out following VAR review.
The huge contingent of Tunisian fans welcomed the decision with a big roar as the Kiwi referee Matthew Conger overturned the last-minute equalizer.
Tunisia held on to record an against-the-odds to claim a memorable 1-0 win but The Eagles of Carthage will not progress to the last 16 due to Australia’s victory over Denmark in Group D’s other final fixture but will take solace from this upset against the 2018 champions.
There is a large Tunisian community in France who will savour the result, the country’s first win against European opposition at a World Cup and just their third ever in 18 matches at the tournament.