Tunisia draw with Catalonia in Nations Cup warm-up

Cesc Fabregas of Catalonia (R) and Khaleo Korbi of Tunisia fight for the ball during the friendly between Catalonia and Tunisia
Cesc Fabregas of Catalonia (right) and Khaleo Korbi of Tunisia fight for the ball

Tunisia held a Catalonia side coached by Johan Cruyff and loaded with Barcelona players to a 0-0 draw in a friendly on Friday as they prepare for the upcoming African Cup of Nations.

Catalonia's starting line-up featured five members of Spain's World Cup winning side.

Barcelona's Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique and goalkeeper Victor Valdes, but Tunisia's disciplined defence held firm throughout.

"We saw a good game. We had our chances to win in both halves, above all in the second, but we couldn't finish them off," Cruyff said.

"But this Tunisia team is pretty good. We were all surprised by how well they played."

The Carthage Eagles tried to catch the hosts off guard at the start as Youssef Misakui tested Valdes with a low shot in the fourth minute.

Catalonia soon took control of possession through its Barcelona-themed midfield, and Roma striker Bojan Krkic came closest to breaking through in the 12th when his long strike from outside the area hit the post.

Tunisia threatened through its counterattacks and at the half-hour mark midfielder Oussama Darrafi headed into the arms of Valdes at close range.

Moments later Pique tapped the ball weakly straight at Tunisia goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi, who also responded well to smother a pair of shots from Espanyol forward Sergio Garcia just before half-time.

Cruyff made wholesale changes after the break, and even though his side dominated and continued to create scoring chances, Tunisia never lost its nerve in defence.

"I think that there are not many teams in the world like Catalonia, because they have great players with a lot of quality," said Tunisia coach Sami Trabelsi.

"I think that this team could win the World Cup."

The 2012 African Cup will be played from 21January to 12 February in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Tunisia, which beat the Basque Country 2-0 in a friendly on Wednesday, won the African Cup in 2004.

Tunisia kick off their campaign against the Atlas Lions of Morocco in Libreville on 23 January, before playing Niger in the Gabonese capital on 27 January.

They then travel to Franceville to play the co-hosts in their final group game on 31 January.

Catalonia, like other Spanish regions such as the Basque Country, competes in friendlies against international teams but isn't permitted to play in official competitions.

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