AL RAYYAN, Qatar –
Arab teams are making an impact at the first World Cup in the Middle East.
Tunisia drew Denmark 0-0 in the European Championship semi-final on Tuesday, three hours after Saudi Arabia beat Argentina in a shock defeat.
In front of a stadium almost filled with fans in red Tunisian shirts, midfielder Aissa Laidouni set the tone from the first minute when he stripped the ball of Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen with a decisive tackle. paralyzed – then stood up and waved his arms menacingly, signaling to the crowd to be even more enthusiastic.
“I am always proud to represent Tunisia and we always go out to the field with 100 per cent enthusiasm,” Laidouni said through an interpreter.
Tunisia could have deserved more but an adept save just before halftime by goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel helped Denmark secure a draw.
Already on the pitch after Tunisia broke through the defence, Schmeichel raised his hand to block a shot from Issam Jebali, who was playing at his club in Denmark for Odense.
That was the save that the goalkeeper’s father, former Manchester United great Peter Schmeichel, made.
“We want to get at least one point,” Laidouni said. “We didn’t come for a draw. We wanted to win and I think we had a chance to do that, but in the end we were happy with the draw.”
The match marked Eriksen’s return to a major tournament less than a year and a half after he suffered a cardiac arrest against Denmark at Euro 2020.
Taking on his familiar midfield role, Eriksen delivered a dangerous long-range shot toward goal in the second half that was saved by Tunisia’s Aymen Dahmen.
And in the next corner, Denmark hit the post.
Tunisia also had a chance to win a last-minute penalty for Denmark but the referee decided to continue the game after reviewing the video of the possibility of a handball.
Denmark was one of the most outspoken critics of the tournament in Qatar and during the pre-match warm-up, their players wore black long-sleeved shirts over their red jerseys. remember the migrant workers who died building the infrastructure for football’s biggest event.
Denmark had also planned to wear the “One Love” anti-discrimination captaincy alongside other European teams before the campaign was called off when FIFA threatened to withdraw a yellow card.
However, former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, now chair of the management and development committee of the Danish football federation, was at the stadium wearing a subtle rainbow-colored jacket.
Denmark has lofty goals after their performance at Euro 2020 last year and a near-perfect qualifying campaign, while Tunisia is looking to make it through the group stage to qualify for its sixth World Cup for the first time.
After a lack of atmosphere at some of the opening matches, the large number of Tunisian fans inside the Education City Stadium made the North African team feel like a home game. Tunisian fans chant, drum and blow air whistles when their team has the ball – then whistle and whistle loudly whenever Denmark takes control of the ball.
Many spectators waving Palestinian flags also supported Tunisia.
In the end, both teams created 13 shots.
While saying it was “not an excuse”, Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand said that finding ways to oppose Qatar had distracted them.
“I (spend) too much time every day trying to figure out how to handle this,” he said. “There’s so much I want to know how to say. I have to struggle with it, I have to say it.
“I only speak for myself when I say that I find the current situation very difficult.”
SUPPORT DONG DONG
Tunisia is not known for its attacking prowess but coach Jalel Kadri said the support of the crowd helped his team increase the tempo.
“It lifted our spirits,” Kadri said. “Mentally, it gave us a big boost. It really helped us. But tactically and physically we also played very well.”
Next, Tunisia will meet Australia on Saturday in Group D and Denmark will meet defending champions France on the same day.