Thanks to Wahbi Khazri's winner, Tunisia ended the World Cup with a 2-1 victory against Panama.
Thanks to Wahbi Khazri's winner, Tunisia ended its World Cup campaign with a 2-1 win against Panama on Thursday. It was a consolation victory, after the North African side had already been eliminated from the tournament, but a victory nonetheless.
As for Los Canaleros, who were taking part in their first ever World Cup, the score gave them a third straight loss in the group. Regardless, it was a spirited performance from the Central American nation, thanks to a passionate set of players and fan base.
It was a physical start as Tunisia looked to control with possession while Panama hoped to counter with its pace. Given their fast-paced, quick passing system, the North African side looked more in control in the early stages, but Panama's work in the middle was making it hard for Tunisia to develop rhythm.
Finding it hard to enter Panama's box, Tunisia relied on deep crosses from the wide areas but Roman Torres and his backline stayed focused, looking to leave the tournament on a high. By the 15th minute, Tunisia had 60% possession and it seemed as if it was only a matter of time before Nabil Maaloul's side would strike.
In the 19th minute, a great Tunisian attempt into the box was kept out by Jaime Penedo, but the sense the Central Americans would concede was looking more realistic. After 30 minutes of play, the score remained 0-0 with few opportunities that truly threatened the keeper.
But in the 33rd minute, Roman Torres laid it off to Jose Luis Rodriguez and his deflected shot made it 1-0. It ended up as an own goal for Yassine Meriah.
Tunisia looked to get back in it as Oussama Haddadi's cross in the 37th minute from the left wing found Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, but his header went wide. Just before the break, Wahbi Khazri had a golden opportunity to equalize but Roman Torres cleared it from the line and kept his team's lead heading into the dressing room.
The second half started well for Tunisia and Khazri once again with a great cross for Ben Youssef and just like that it was 1-1.
He had another chance to score and make it 2-1 but Penedo made a great stop to keep it away. In the 62nd minute, there was chaos in Tunisia's box when Aymen Mathlouthi mishandled a crossing attempt and collided with Luis Tejada, who was looking to attack the box. Luckily for him, the chance was missed.
But in the 65th minute, Wahbi Khazri, who has been working so hard all tournament, secured the lead as he connected and scored thanks to a cross from the left wing.
Just before the 75th minute, Panama thought it had scored a fantastic goal but a foul before the attempt brought the play back and it remained 2-1 to the North Africans. With less than 10 minutes left, Panama pushed for the second goal but tired legs were taking over and little creativity in the final third was being generated.
In the 89th minute, however, Panama had a great chance to equalize from the left wing but Abdiel Arroyo completely misjudged the cross. Another chance for Anibal Godoy in the box went missing when his volley went far wide. A last-gasp free kick for the Central American side was taken well but unfortunately it went straight into the hands of Mathlouthi.
In the end, the whistle blew and Tunisia had ended the tournament with a victory while Panama bowed out with a loss, but with its head held high after appearing in its first ever World Cup.
For a recap on the other match from Group G between England and Belgium, read on here.
Here were the lineups for both teams:
Here are the rosters for both sides:
Goalkeepers: Jose Calderon (Chorrillo), Jaime Penedo (Dinamo Bucarest), Alex Rodriguez (San Francisco)
Defenders: Felipe Baloy (Municipal), Harold Cummings (San Jose Earthquakes), Erick Davis (Dunajska Streda), Fidel Escobar (New York Red Bulls), Adolfo Machado (Houston Dynamo), Michael Amir Murillo (New York Red Bulls), Luis Ovalle (Olimpia), Roman Torres (Seattle Sounders)
Midfielders: Edgar Barcenas (Tapachula), Armando Cooper (Universidad de Chile), Anibal Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes), Gabriel Gomez (Atletico Bucaramanga), Valentin Pimentel (Plaza Amador), Alberto Quintero (Universitaro), Jose Luis Rodriguez (Gent)
Forwards: Abdiel Arroyo (Alajuelense), Ismael Diaz (Deportivo Fabril), Blas Perez (Municipal), Luis Tejada (Sport Boys), Gabriel Torres (Huachipato)
Manager: Hernan Dario Gomez
Goalkeepers: Farouk Ben Mustapha (Al Shabab), Moez Hassen (Chateauroux), Aymen Mathlouthi (Al Baten)
Defenders: Rami Bedoui (Etoile du Sahel), Yohan Benalouane (Leicester City), Syam Ben Youssef (Kasimpasa), Dylan Bronn (Gent), Oussama Haddadi (Dijon), Ali Maaloul (Al Ahly), Yassine Meriah (CS Sfaxien), Hamdi Nagguez (Zamalek)
Midfielders: Anice Badri (Esperance), Mohamed Amine Ben Amor (Al Ahli Riyadh), Ghaylene Chaalali (Esperance), Ahmed Khalil (Club Africain), Saifeddine Khaoui (Troyes), Ferjani Sassi (Al Nasr), Ellyes Skhiri (Montpellier), Naim Sliti (Dijon), Bassem Srarfi (Nice)
Forwards: Fakhreddine Ben Youssef (Al Ittifaq), Saber Khalifa (Club Africain), Wahbi Khazri (Rennes)
Manager: Nabil Maaloul