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 By Ian Holyman

Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul admits plan to break players' Ramadan fast

World Cup debutants Tunisia remained unbeaten in their World Cup qualifiers. How long can they avoid defeat for in Russia?
With arguably one of the toughest groups and crippling injuries to key players, Ed Dove discusses whether Tunisia can surprise people at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Tunisian defender Oussama Haddadi has confidence in his team and believes they can progress from the group stage in the 2018 World Cup.

Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul has said he asked goalkeeper Mouez Hassan to feign injury so his squad could break their Ramadan fast during recent World Cup warm-up friendlies.

Hassan collapsed to the turf for no apparent reason during the second halves of his country's 2-2 draws with Portugal and Turkey.

The stoppage was the cue for teammates fasting between sunrise and sunset to rush to the sidelines to eat and drink.

Hassan, who plays for French Ligue 2 club Chateauroux, wrote in a since-deleted tweet, "I was really hurt, bruv" along with laughing emojis, when asked about the incident.

But Tunisia boss Maaloul told reporters it had been part of a plan.

"I had prepared it," he said. "We prepared it because a huge amount of players were fasting. I told him to fall down to let the players break the fast. Us staff too.

"The players have the right to do what they have to do. It's our religion. It's difficult to stay 16 hours without water, without drinking, especially if you have two training sessions. But we adapted."

Tunisia have one more friendly, against Spain in Krasnodar, to come during Ramadan before it ends prior to their first group-stage game against England on June 18.

"The problem isn't now," Maaloul said. "The problem is after Ramadan. The muscles are going to be a little tired. I hope it's going to work out."

Meanwhile, defender Yohan Benalouane has said Tunisia are aiming to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time in their history.

The African nation also face Belgium and Panama in Group G, and Leicester defender Benalouane told his club's official website: "The first objective is to get through the first round as it would be amazing for our country. To have a good World Cup with all my teammates will be a good thing.

"For me, it was a big emotion [to play for Tunisia], because to go on the pitch with the shirt of your country, it's always something special. I hope we can do something good for the World Cup."

Information from Reuters was used in this report

Ian is ESPN's French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman

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