Hannibal targets trophy for football-mad Tunisia
Manchester United midfielder Hannibal says winning the Arab Cup would mean ‘so much’ for the football-obsessed country of Tunisia.
The 18-year-old has starred for the Eagles of Carthage on their run to the final of the tournament in Qatar, which takes place on Saturday.
Tunisia have beaten Mauritania, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Egypt to reach this stage, with North African rivals Algeria now all that stands between them and glory in this competition for the first time since 1963.
“Of course, I’m really, really excited for the final against Algeria,” said Hannibal, in an exclusive interview with club media. “After all, it’s a final. We’re going to give absolutely everything and concentrate on our game.”
“It would mean so much, not just for the players but for the country as a whole,” the 18-year-old continued when asked about the significance of lifting the trophy.
“Everyone knows what it’s like in Africa and in Tunisia: we live, eat and sleep football.
“So if we were to win then it’d bring us even closer to our people, moving in the right direction together and it would give us so much strength to go on and achieve even more.”
Despite only making his senior international debut earlier this year, Hannibal – who is the youngest member of the Tunisia squad – has made a big impact at the tournament.
The United youngster has largely played in the no.10 role despite being deployed in a deeper position with the Under-23s this season.
After picking up an assist in the opening game, he was then awarded Man of the Match twice, for his showings in the 1-0 wins over UAE, in the group stages, and Egypt, during Wednesday’s dramatic semi-final which was settled by an injury-time own goal.
“It’s hard to choose one [as a better performance], because they were both very different matches,” he explained.
“In one, we had a lot of the ball and I was able to create lots of different opportunities and in the other it was more about putting in defensive effort.
“In both of them, I think they were good matches. Both personally and as a team I think we put in good performances in both of them and were tactically very good, so they’ve both got their own qualities: the first one more attacking-wise, the second more defensively.
“Everything that I’ve experienced is a learning curve and I’m going to take everything that I can from it.
“It’s a huge honour and pleasure to play for my country so I thank the staff for giving me that opportunity and thank the Tunisian people.”
Hannibal’s significant involvement in a senior tournament at such a young age is a real boon for him and the United Academy and the teenager has revealed he has been in touch with several players and coaches back home.
“Yes, some of my team-mates and members of staff have congratulated me. Some of them I know are watching our matches, although I know it is more difficult to do so [back in the UK].
“Now I hope to give the best showing of myself in the final and project a good image of Man United and hopefully to bring back some silverware as well.”