Tunisia name France-born quartet in squad for friendly match against Iran
Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul has named four France-born players, including Leicester City defender Yohan Benalouane, in his 28-man squad for this month’s World Cup warm-up matches against Iran and Costa Rica.
Former France youth internationals Seifeddine Khaoui, Ellyes Skhiri and Mouez Hassen, who all pledged their futures to the Carthage Eagles this year, have been called up.
But Leicester’s Yohan Benalouane, who had previously rejected Tunisia, was a surprise inclusion for the fixtures against Iran and Costa Rica.
Tunisia will play Iran at home on 23 March and then Costa Rica in France four days later.
Centre-back Benalouane is a former France Under-21 international and despite opting to represent Tunisia - the country of his parents - in 2010, he refused to honor several calls to play for the North Africans.
Experienced defender Aymen Abdennour, 28, has been overlooked due to lack of playing time at French club Marseille, while star quintet of Youssef Msakni, Wahbi Khazri, Mohamed Amine Ben Amor, Ali Maaloul and Naïm Sliti is included.
Maaloul is hoping the newcomers will add to the depth of talent he can choose from ahead of the final warm-up fixture against Spain in the Russian city of Krasnodar on 9 June.
He will seek to use as many of the players as possible in friendly games as he looks to get his Carthage Eagles squad into shape before their opening 2018 World Cup match against England on 18 June.
Tunisia’s match against England will be the second World Cup meeting between the two countries after they lost the first 2-0 to the Three Lions at France ‘98.
The North Africans will face Belgium in their second group game, with Panama completing Group G.
Campaigners at three successive FIFA World Cups between 1998 and 2006, Tunisia missed the tournaments in South Africa in 2010 and Brazil 2014.
Tunisia, who are returning to the World Cup finals after a 12-year absence, topped a tricky qualifying group containing DR Congo, Guinea and Libya to seal their place in Russia.