Tunisia stepped up their World Cup preparations with a 3-0 win over Japan in Osaka on Tuesday to finish first in the four-team Kirin Cup tournament. 

Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane scored a penalty 10 minutes into the second half before Ferjani Sassi and Ali Maaloul scored to round off an impressive victory for the North Africans.

Japan, 23rd in the FIFA rankings, wasted several first-half chances before conceding twice from defensive errors by captain Maya Yoshida against the 35th-ranked North Africans in front of 31,292 at a rainy Panasonic Stadium in Osaka.

It was Tunisia’s first win against Japan, who had won all four previous meetings, including in the 2002 World Cup group stage precisely 20 years ago in Osaka, when the Samurai Blue secured their first knockout-stage berth with a 2-0 result.

Hajime Moriyasu’s side had beaten Ghana 4-1 on Friday to reach the final of the four-team tournament after beginning the month with a 4-1 win over Paraguay and a 1-0 loss to Brazil in friendlies.

“We wanted to come away with a trophy. It’s a disappointing result,” Moriyasu said. “Their finishing was clinical and that swung the game their way.”

“Tunisia were a very good team and they had the ability to turn our weakness and mistakes into chances. It was a good lesson for us ahead of the World Cup finals.”

In the second half of the game, Tunisia made Japan pay when Anis Ben Slimane released Taha Yassine Khenissi into the box, and Maya Yoshida took him down with a poorly timed challenge. Romdhane stepped up and smashed the penalty past goalkeeper Daniel Schmidt.

Japan then handed Tunisia a second when a defensive mix-up between Yoshida and Ko Itakura let Youssef Msakni steal into the box. Sassi was in a position to finish off his pass. Maaloul put the icing on the cake for Tunisia when he made it three after a break on the counter in injury time.

Optimistic Tunisia

Tunisia head coach Jalel Kadri believes his side can reach the World Cup knock-out round for the first time in six attempts after pulling off an impressive 3-0 win over Japan on Tuesday. The North Africans have never made it past the World Cup group stage, but Kadri thinks this could be their year.

“Our aim was to get to the World Cup, but now that we have achieved that we want to get to the knock-out round for the first time – that’s our goal,” said the 50-year-old. 

“We have France, Denmark and Australia in our group and that will be very difficult, but we want to make our dream come true and get through to the knock-out round at the sixth time of asking.”