England’s “most dangerous weapon” is Dele Alli believes Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul and his side will be pushing for an upset in their opening game on Monday.
The national side have shown steady improvement since the humiliating defeat by Iceland at Euro 2016 and Maaloul believes the team in Russia is even better than the class of 1998, which included David Beckham and Michael Owen.
“It is true they had Beckham, Owen, and other players but I do not think they had the osmosis they have now,” Maaloul told reporters on Sunday ahead of the Group G match.
He added: “The current English team is much stronger than the one in 2016 so it’s not going to be the same thing,” added Maaloul, who was in the stadium to watch England lose 2-1 to Iceland in France two years ago.
Tunisia’s coach has referred to Dele as “excellent.” and when asked by a reporter whether Tunisia would seek to test Alli’s reputation for having a hot temper, Maaloul chuckled and replied: “You’ve given me a good idea! I had not thought of that.”
One of Maaloul’s main aims against England will be to prevent the link up between Alli and his Spurs team mate and England team captain, striker Harry Kane. He said :“If we manage to split this association on the pitch – that’s what I told my players – it would be very good.”
The Tunisian coach also heaped praise on his young side and the four French-born players who joined the squad earlier this year.
“What’s given us a lot of confidence are our last friendlies,” said Maaloul, whose men held Portugal to a 2-2 draw in May and were only beaten 1-0 by Spain with a late goal earlier this month.
Tunisia have won only one World Cup game in their history against Mexico in 1978 and with fellow African teams Morocco, Nigeria and Egypt all losing their opening games in Russia, Maaloul conceded that Tunisia were feeling the pressure.
“We have huge pressure given that we represent Africa, we represent the Arab world, and we represent 12 million Tunisians,”:said Maaloul, whose team will also face third ranked Belgium and Panama during the group stage.
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