SHARJAH // Tunisia took a major step towards qualifying for the knockout stages of the Fifa Under 17 World Cup with a hard-fought victory against Russia at Sharjah Stadium.
In a match of few chances, the north Africans proved the most clinical, substitute Maher Gabsi notching the winner on the hour mark. He had been introduced to the action only moments before.
Tunisia, who opened their tournament by defeating a strong Venezuelan side, will feel they deserved the three points, though, having defended well and always threatening to add to their tally on the counter-attack.
For Russia, the result will likely confirm their elimination after the group stages. Having come into the event as European champions, they have struggled to adapt to conditions and, but for a few fleeting moments of sustained pressure, never really seemed capable of breaking down the Tunisians.
Once Gabsi had scored, Russia’s chances of salvaging something from their Group D campaign quickly evaporated. However, striker Ramil Sheidaev almost drew parity in the closing minutes, reacting fastest following a scramble in the penalty area only to see his effort blocked on the line by Tunisia’s Rached Arfaoui.
By that stage, Tunisia could have been out of sight, as Hazem Haj Hassen wasted two clear-cut opportunities to double his side’s advantage. He would squander another in injury time, but it mattered little as Tunisia stood firm to maintain their 100 per cent start.