Tunisians celebrate 'revenge' victory over France despite World Cup journey ending

Tunisia is out of the competition, making their win over France bittersweet

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Tunisians experienced a rollercoaster of emotions on Wednesday as they watched their national football team, the Eagles of Carthage, beat defending world champion France, only to be eliminated from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

As the voice of famed Tunisian commentator Issam Chaouali echoed from every cafe in Tunis and beyond, millions watched with bated breath as the team made their final attempt to qualify for the knockout stage of the competition for the first time.

Joy flowed through the crowd at Education City Stadium in Tunis, where tennis No 2 Ons Jabeur joined others watching the match.

“Even though we have a 0.1 per cent chance to win, nothing is impossible,” she told Bein sports channel. “Let’s believe in ourselves — 'impossible' is not Tunisian.”

The Eagles soared to a 1-0 victory against their previous coloniser, but the ecstasy was short-lived: Australia's win over Denmark minutes later knocked Tunisia — who have two previous losses and two draws — out of the competition.

Still, a win is a win, said some gathered in cafes and public fan zones to watch the game.

“I felt as if we got our revenge for 75 years of colonialism,” said 26-year-old law student Sarah Abdel Majid at a cafe in the Tunis neighbourhood of L'Aouina.

“We beat the world champion, so it’s fine if we did not go through to the next round,” she added, tears of joy streaming down her face.

Though the match saw Tunisia win their first World Cup match since 1978, a gloomy mood could still be sensed among fans, who had high hopes at the beginning of the current competition.

Tunisia soccer fans gather to watch their national team play against France on a large screen set up for fans in Tunis, Tunisia. AP

“Today’s match was splendid, but it’s still a disappointment that we did not qualify,” Moroccan-Tunisian diplomacy student Anouar Al Baina told The National.

“I’m just wondering why we did not play this way against Australia,” 32-year-old Zied told The National.

Some have questioned the decisions made during that game, saying world-class Tunisia should have performed better against the Socceroos.

“I’m sure that most people are happy because we won over our former colonisers, and we are absolutely entitled to feel victorious at the end of the day,” Zied added.

“But I think it’s high time for us to evaluate our performance and the strategy set up to train our footballers.”

Buoyed by the elation of beating France, Tunisians made their way home once the match was over, brimming with hope for the next World Cup.

Updated: December 01, 2022, 5:30 AM