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Match 46
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Tactics: How can Tunisia beat Panama?

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Maaloul, Ben Youssef exposed as Tunisia crushed by Belgium

Tunisia fell to a second consecutive World Cup defeat as they were thoroughly outclassed by Belgium, losing 5-2 at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow.

The Carthage Eagles pulled a goal back after falling two goals down early on, but by and large they appeared off the pace, disorganised and, notably, a cut below their imperious opponents.

Positives

This was much better from star man Wahbi Khazri after his muted showing against England, the forward was lively, inventive, and contributed a fine assist.

With the pressure off and the rain falling in the second half, Tunisia actually began to express themselves, and there were some moments of outstanding interplay between the forwards.

Unfortunately, it was too little, too late.

Negatives

Tunisia's limitations - notably their sluggish defensive unit - was woefully exposed, and it could have been worse had it not been for some poor control by Romelu Lukaku and some underwhelming finishing.

Their central defenders were slow and rash, while the attacking players only truly came to the fore when the came was lost.

Manager rating (out of 10):

5 -- Nabil Maaloul wept during the Tunisian national anthem, and his team carried that emotion and that intensity into a bright start before being undone by the penalty after six minutes.

He dropped Naim Sliti for Saif-Eddine Khaoui in a move which denied Tunisia one of their most scintillating attackers, without significantly bolstering the midfield.

The coach couldn't do anything about the defensive injuries, although his team really didn't appear as organised as they surely needed to be to take something from this match.

Surely Tunisia's disorganised approach has much to do with his decision to introduce wholesale changes to the squad before the tournament started.

Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):

GK Farouk Ben Mustapha, 6 -- Was bold, to the point of recklessness, with some of his rushing out of goal, but can't be blamed too much for Tunisia's miserable defensive display. He did make an excellent stop from Michy Batshuayi late on.

DF Dylan Bronn, 7 -- Built on his impressive opening game with an encouraging showing, meeting Khazri's excellent deliver to head past Thibaut Courtois, but was replaced with injury six minutes later.

DF Syam Ben Youssef, 4 -- He was clumsy and struggled against pace in Tunisia's opener against England and got away with it. He certainly didn't here, and was guilty of conceding an early penalty after bringing down Eden Hazard - who appeared to be going nowhere.

Replaced with injury on 41 minutes.

DF Yassine Meriah, 5 -- Played his part in a pretty dire defensive showing, although he did clear Batshuayi's goalbound effort off the line with 15 minutes to play.

DF Ali Maaloul, 4 -- A really disappointing outing for the experienced full-back, and it's hard to remember him having a worse time in a Tunisia shirt.

There was too much that came down his side throughout, he was careless in possession and endured an error-laden afternoon, notably conceding possession for Belgium's second.

MF Ellyes Skhiri, 5 -- Continued in midfield ahead of Ghaaylen Chaalali and Mohamed Amine Ben Amor, but didn't offer enough, committed too many fouls and struggled to cope with Belgian runners.

MF Ferjani Sassi, 5 -- Emotional, and offered presence, but largely ineffective. He was booked after losing his cool on 14 minutes, and his finishing was wayward. Withdrawn after an hour.

MF Anice Badri, 5 -- Grew into the contest after the break following an anonymous first half. Tested Courtois with a few efforts from range, but his finishing was largely weak.

MF Saif-Eddine Khaoui, 5 -- Started ahead of Naim Sliti, but despite some moments of fine control, he didn't have the desired impact and was too slow in transitioning from midfield to attack. Set-piece delivery also left a lot to be desired.

FW Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, 6 -- Created three goalscoring chances for his opponents, and was an ardent battler in the air for Tunisia. His use of the ball was mixed.

FW Wahbi Khazri, 7 -- This was a much better outing for Khazri following a flat display against England. He caused trouble for Jan Vertonghen during the first half when he worked the right-hand channel, and could have won an early penalty.

He contributed the assist for Bronn's goal with a superb delivery, tested Courtois from range, and caused problems for Yannick Ferreira Carrasco before fading as the game slipped away from Tunisia. 

His late goal was worthy contribution for a fine display.

Substitutes

DF Hamdi Nagguez, 6 -- Came on for the injured Bronn after 24 minutes, and created two goalscoring chances, but his crossing had left much to be desired until his fine assist for Khazri's late consolation.

DF Yohan Benalouane, 4 -- Introduced for the injured Ben Youssef just before the break, and Tunisia had conceded after six minutes. Didn't step up with the rest of the defenders for Lukaku's second, and was unsurprisingly exposed by the pace of Belgium's attack.

MF Naim Sliti, 6 -- Introduced the the final half an hour, and prompted an improvement in Tunisia's attacking play with some bright movement and fine footwork.

Ed Dove is the Soccer Editor for KweséESPN. Follow him on Twitter @EddyDove.

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