An invigorated Tunisia claimed a famous victory over France team made up mostly of back-up players but their 1-0 win over the reigning champions was not enough for the North Africans to progress to the World Cup knockout stages.
Wahbi Khazri scored in the 58th minute to give the Tunisians the victory, but it wasn’t enough to get them into the round of 16. Australia beat Denmark 1-0 in another Group D game and finished second on goal difference.
Khazri ran at the heart of the French defence and beat two players before poking the ball into the bottom corner. He fell to his knees and was mobbed by teammates. When he got back up, he made a heart shape to the Tunisian fans behind the goal and then limped off, appearing to hurt himself as he fell when scoring his 25th international goal and his third at World Cups.
It was Tunisia’s third victory at a World Cup, and it was France’s first loss at the tournament since the 2014 quarterfinals, when Germany beat the team 1-0.
France forward Antoine Griezmann thought he had evened the score in the eighth minute of stoppage time but he was ruled offside following a video review. At the same time, Tunisia’s players on the bench crowded around a TV monitor hoping for a Denmark goal that would have changed the group standings.
A few minutes after Khazri’s goal, a man ran onto the field at Education City Stadium with what appeared to be a Palestinian flag. He did some acrobatic jumps before six security officials dragged him off.
With France already qualified for the knockout stage, coach Didier Deschamps rested Griezmann, Kylian Mbappé and most of his regular starters. Only four of the team lining up at the beginning had even started a World Cup match before.
But Khazri’s goal prompted Deschamps to bring on Mbappé and Griezmann and the increased urgency almost led to an equaliser.
Deschamps had selected more of a “C” team than a “B” team. Randal Kolo Muani struggled to make an impact at centre forward and Kingsley Coman — who scored Bayern Munich’s winner in the 2020 Champions League final — was isolated.
France central defender Raphael Varane, however, mopped up on the occasions Tunisia got close to the penalty area in the first half.
With goalkeeper Hugo Lloris among the rested, 37-year-old Steve Mandanda played only the second World Cup match of his long career. The other was also in the team’s third group game four years ago.
Mandanda’s appearance means Lloris will have to wait a little longer to equal defender Lilian Thuram’s national record of 142 appearances. Lloris has made 141 appearances for Les Bleus.
Striker Olivier Giroud also has to be patient. He still has 51 goals, equal with Thierry Henry as France’s all-time leading scorer.