Arab teams impress at the first World Cup in the Middle East. Tunisia held European Championship semi-finalist Denmark to a 0-0 draw on Tuesday, three hours after Saudi Arabia beat Argentina in a shocking upset. Before a stadium was almost completely filled with its red-clad supporters, Tunisia probably deserved more, but an expert save by goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel shortly before half-time helped Denmark keep the tie. After Tunisia broke through the defence, he had already sunk into the grass and raised his hand to deflect a shot from Issam Jebali, who plays his club ball in Denmark for Odense.
It was exactly the kind of save the goalkeeper’s father, former Manchester United great Peter Schmeichel, used to make. The match marked Christian Eriksen’s return to a major tournament less than a year and a half after his cardiac arrest with Denmark at Euro 2020.
Using his usual position as a playmaker, Eriksen produced a dangerous long shot on target in the second half that Tunisian goalkeeper Aymen Dahmen had to clear. And on the ensuing corner, Denmark hit the post. Tunisia also survived the chance of a last-minute penalty for Denmark, but the referee ruled to continue playing after a video review for a possible handball.
Denmark was one of the most outspoken critics of the Qatar tournament and during the pre-match warm-up, the players all wore black long-sleeved shirts over their red match jerseys to mourn migrant workers who died building infrastructure for the biggest football event.
Denmark also planned to wear the “One Love” anti-discrimination armband along with other European teams before the campaign was halted when FIFA threatened to hand out yellow cards.
However, former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who now chairs the Board and Development Committee of the Danish Football Federation, was at the stadium wearing a subtle rainbow-colored jacket.
Denmark has high goals after its performance at last year’s Euro 2020 and a near-perfect qualifying campaign, while Tunisia attempts to advance from the group stage for the first time in its sixth World Cup appearance.
After a lack of atmosphere at several of the opening matches, the sheer number of Tunisian fans at the Education City Stadium made it feel like a home game for the North African team.