Hannibal unused as Tunisia fall to narrow defeat
Hannibal remained on the bench as Tunisia were edged out 1-0 against Australia at the Al Janoub Stadium in their second group game of the 2022 World Cup.
The United midfielder - currently on loan at Birmingham City - watched on as Mitchell Duke's superb first-half header proved the difference between the two sides, despite Tunisia's best efforts to get level.
The Socceroos, marshalled by the resilient centre-back partnership of Harry Souttar and Kye Rowles, and goalkeeper Matt Ryan, saw out the vital victory by thwarting attempts from Mohamed Drager, Youssef Msakni, Naim Sliti and Wahbi Khazri, as they moved to second in Group D.
The Eagles of Carthage threw a lot of players forward in the closing stages in the search for a leveller, but came up short, meaning that nothing less than victory against holders France on Wednesday will be enough to progress to the Round of 16.
Australia were the team to break the deadlock in a competitive first half, thanks to a brilliant header from Duke. The Socceroos' striker adjusted brilliantly after Craig Goodwin's cross was deflected up off the turf and glanced the ball beyond a helpless Aymen Dahmen.
Tunisia threatened the Australia defence though, with Msakni finding space in the box and shaping to shoot, only to be crowded out before he could pull the trigger.
The Eagles of Carthage pushed for an equaliser as half-time approached, but the Socceroos' defence stood firm. With the break imminent, Tunisia arguably should have been level, but couldn't find the back of the net.
After superb work from Issam Jebali, the ball fell to Drager in a good position, but the winger's strike was blocked brilliantly by Souttar. Minutes later, Msakni arrived in the box to get on the end of a low cross from the right, striking wide as Australia went in with the advantage at the break.
Tunisia came out in the second period full of energy to get back into the game, but struggled to create many clear-cut chances. Goodwin, whose cross created Duke's opener, threatened again after the break and drilled a dangerous low ball that screamed across the face of the Tunisia goal, but none of his team-mates could get on the end of it.
The game became scrappy, with the sides largely cancelling each other out.
Despite Tunisia's pressure, Australia almost doubled their lead with just 20 minutes to go, when substitute Jamie Maclaren broke down the left and drove the ball across goal, but a stretching Mathew Leckie couldn't apply the final touch.
Just minutes later, Msakni almost had the equaliser when he found space down the left-hand side, striking a left-footed effort which was palmed away by Ryan. He followed this up with another shot a minute later, which lacked the power to trouble the Australia goalkeeper.
The Socceroos responded, and Aaron Mooy struck an effort sweetly from the edge of the box, but it sailed narrowly over the crossbar.
In the closing stages, the Eagles of Carthage threw everything at their Group D opponents, and after Sliti danced through the Australia defence, Rowles was there to block his left-footed shot.
Moments later, substitute Khazri did well to get on the end of Wajdi Kechrida's cross from the right, but his effort was tame and Ryan was able to hold.
Graham Arnold's side were able to see out the win and earn their first three points of the group stage. The Socceroos now sit second in Group D, with France and Denmark set to lock horns this afternoon (Saturday) at 16:00 GMT.
The defeat for Tunisia means they must defeat France on Wednesday (15:00 GMT) to have any chance of progressing into the knockout stages.
Given his side's struggles to get on the scoresheet against Australia, Kadri could turn to Hannibal to unlock the defence of the current World Cup holders.