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    WORLD CUP: Tunisia to Play England Without Youssef Msakni

    Tunisia are preparing to take on England in their World Cup Group G opener, but they will be without talismanic forward Youssef Msakni. How will they cope without him?
    Tunisia manager Nabil Maaloul is a victim of foreshadowing. In March, ahead of friendlies against Iran and Costa Rica, he said of Msakni: "Tunisia without Msakni? It is as if Argentina was playing without Lionel Messi or Portugal without Cristiano Ronaldo. He's a very important player."
    The 27-year-old was in the squad but did not feature during either game - both of which Tunisia won 1-0 - most likely to protect him from injury in non-competitive fixtures ahead of the summer tournament. The irony of the decision is now palpable.
    Fast forward a few weeks and Msakni suffered a cruciate ligament injury while playing in a league match for his Qatari club, Al-Duhail, which threw his World Cup hopes into doubt. While Tunisia initially hoped he would be fit in time, he was not named in the initial 29-man squad last month and will miss the Russia showpiece.
    Following his injury, he posted on Instagram: "It was meant to be, but I thank God anyway. I'm very sad about the injury that will deprive me from continuing with Al Duhil, the National Team and the World Cup."
    It is certainly a blow for the Tunisian national team, who relied on the winger during a tough qualification campaign in Africa, topping Group A with an unbeaten campaign against DR Congo, Libya and Guinea. Indeed, DR Congo almost denied them a place at their fifth World Cup as they finished just one point behind with the same goal difference.
    There is no doubt that Msakni was key in securing Tunisia's spot in Russia. He scored a hat-trick against Guniea in 4-1 away win in October and picked up an assist during a decisive 2-2 draw against DR Congo, and Tunisian sports journalist Souhail Khmira says his injury dashed the hopes fans had of an extended World Cup run.

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