Tunisia beat Group D winners France 1-0 but that wasn’t enough to qualify in a dramatic final that saw Antoine Griezmann’s goal ruled out by a late VAR review.
Wahbi Khazri scored the decisive goal in the 58th minute with a fantastic solo run as Tunisia took full advantage of Didier Deschamps making nine changes to the France squad and resting Kylian Mbappe.
France only started to press in the latter stages when Mbappe was substituted and they thought they had leveled it when Griezmann fired home, but a possible VAR review revealed he was offside in the preparation.
With Australia beating Denmark to finish with six points, it meant Tunisia, who finished third, crashed out in odd fashion after taking four points from France and Denmark.
France are set to face the Group C runners-up on Sunday at 3pm with a potential meeting with England in the quarter-finals if they win their last 16 game.
Team News: No Mbappé
- Tunisia made six changes after the loss to Australia, including changing all three centre-backs as Montassar Talbi, Nader Ghandri and Yassine Meriah started. Wahbi Khazri made his first start after just 24 minutes against Australia.
- Already qualified for the round of 16, France made nine changes with players like Matteo Guendouzi, Kingsley Coman and Jordan Veretout given the chance to shine. Kylian Mbappé was one of the players to drop out.
How Tunisia crushed France’s tournament momentum…
When changing an entire squad it is hoped that the players, given their luck, will make their mark, however, France lost all momentum from the start of the tournament in a lackluster opener.
Tunisia: Dahmen (7), Talbi (7), Meriah (7), Ghandri (7), Khazri (8), Maaloul (7), Laidouni (7), Ben Romdhane (7), Skhiri (6), Kechrida (7) , Sliman (7)
Subtitles: Jebali (7), Chaaleli (7)
France: Mandanda (5), Disasi (6), Varane (6), Konaté (6), Camavinga (6), Guendouzi (6), Tchouameni (7), Kolo Muani (7), Fofana (3), Veretout (5) , Coman (7)
Subtitles: Mbappé (7), Rabiot (6), Saliba (6), Griezmann (6), Dembélé (7)
Man of the match: Whabi Khazri
Tunisia sensed their opportunity and played with a verve and energy that their ‘win or lose’ status encouraged.
Khazri’s poor delivery nearly led to a goal in less than seven minutes when defender Nader Ghandri turned it over forcefully, but the linesman’s flag denied him a crucial World Cup goal.
Khazri latched on to a glorious through ball just before the break but no team-mate was on hand to convert at the far post after a magnificent cross.
Tunisia remained in the ascendancy after the break.
Youssouf Fofana’s weak defensive protection and foul claims weren’t bought off by the referee but Aissa Laidouni fired over the bar from a tight angle. Fofana disregarded that unpunished soft contact warning by the referee as he did it again moments later – this time Tunisia made France pay.
Fofana this time got robbed by Khazri in midfield and stopped, hoping the referee would blow for the foul. There was no whistle and Khazri showed remarkable composure to drive through on goal and slip a finish into the far corner.
After the goal, Deschamps called in his big guns with Mbappe unleashed and it saw France into the game as Tunisia shut up shop in defence.
As the clock ticked towards the ninth minute of added time, Griezmann looked like he broke the hearts of the Tunisians by firing a loose ball into the box. However, a VAR review was eventually triggered and the referee was ordered to the pitchside screen to examine Griezmann two meters from the original ball.
The goal was chalked in and Tunisia secured their famous World Cup victory – but cruelly pulled out of the tournament.
Player of the match – Wahbi Khazri
It was a goal that deserved more than what Tunisia finally got. Such was the beauty of this one, Khazri and his teammates may feel very unhappy heading to the next flight out of Qatar. His goal capped an energetic performance that set the tone for his team. He backed up that drive with quality – as the game-winning goal showed.
Opta stats: France’s unbeaten World Cup streak ends
- France were beaten in a World Cup match for the first time since the 2014 quarter-final (0-1 against Germany), ending a nine-game unbeaten streak (W8 D1). They are now winless in their last group game in each of the last four World Cup tournaments (D2 L2), while failing to score in the last three.
- Tunisia have conceded just one goal in three games at the 2022 World Cup; the fewest number of an African team in a full group stage of the tournament, with Cameroon in 1982 and Morocco in 1986.
- It was only the third time the defending World Cup champions had been beaten by African opposition at the tournament, with two of the three coming with France as holders – Cameroon 1-0 Argentina in 1990 , Senegal 1-0 France in 2002 and Tunisia. 1-0 France in 2022.
- France have gifted appearances to 24 different players at the 2022 World Cup – after just three games, he’s already the most different player a team has used in a single tournament in World Cup history world.