2018 World Cup: Tunisia make recalls to preliminary squad

Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul
Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul has named an initial squad of 29 players

Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul has recalled several players to his preliminary 29-man World Cup squad.

Long-term absentees Mohamed Larbi, Karim Laribi, Saber Khalifa and Ahmed Akaichi all feature.

As does Scotland-based Bilel Mohsni, who last played for Tunisia in 2016.

Former France youth internationals Seifeddine Khaoui, Ellyes Skhiri and Mouez Hassen, are also on the list having pledged their futures to the Carthage Eagles.

Leicester City defender Yohan Benalouane, who also swapped from France to Tunisia, is included despite his limited opportunities at the English club.

However the more experienced Aymen Abdennour, 28, has been overlooked due to lack of playing time at French club Marseille.

Another surprise is the omission of in-form veteran striker Hamdi Harbaoui.

The 33-year-old, who plays for Belgian side Zulte Waregem, has scored 22 goals in 30 appearances this season and was largely seen as an ideal replacement for injured star forward Youssef Msakni, who has been ruled out of the tournament.

Also missing from the squad is Kerim Mrabti, who Maaloul met in a bid to persuade to swap national allegiances from Sweden.

The 23-year-old, who can make the swap despite playing three friendlies for Sweden, is yet to confirm whether he wants to make the switch.

The star quartet of Wahbi Khazri, Mohamed Amine Ben Amor, Ali Maaloul and Naim Sliti is included.

The Carthage Eagles face reigning European champions Portugal on 28 May as part of a pre-tournament training camp.

Maaloul's men will base themselves in Switzerland before moving on to Russia for their final warm-up fixture against Spain in the city of Krasnodar on 9 June.

Tunisia will face England, Belgium and Panama in Group G of the World Cup, which starts on 14 June.

Their opening match against England will be the second World Cup meeting between the two countries, with the Three Lions having won 2-0 at France '98.

The North Africans will face Belgium in their second group game, before concluding the phase against Panama.

Having qualified for three successive World Cups between 1998 and 2006, Tunisia missed the tournaments in South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014.

Tunisia's 29-man provisional squad:

Goalkeepers: Moez Ben Cherifia (Esperance), Farouk Ben Mustapha (Al Shabab, Saudi Arabia), Moez Hassen (Chateauroux, France), Aymen Mathlouthi (Al Baten, Saudi Arabia)

Defenders: Rami Bedoui (Etoile du Sahel), Yohan Benalouane (Leicester City, England), Syam Ben Youssef (Kasimpasa, Turkey), Dylan Bronn (Ghent, Belgium), Khalil Chammam (Esperance), Oussama Haddadi (Dijon, France), Ali Maaloul (Al Ahly, Egypt), Yassine Meriah (CS Sfaxien), Bilel Mohsni (Dundee United, Scotland), Hamdi Nagguez (Zamalek, Egypt)

Midfielders: Anice Badri (Esperance), Mohamed Amine Ben Amor (Al Ahli Riyadh, Saudi Arabia), Ghaylene Chaalali (Esperance), Ahmed Khalil (Club Africain), Saifeddine Khaoui (Troyes, France), Mohamed Wael Larbi (Tours, France), Karim Laribi (Cesena, Italy), Ferjani Sassi (Al Nasr, Saudi Arabia), Ellyes Skhiri (Montpellier, France), Naim Sliti (Dijon, France), Bassem Srarfi (Nice, France)

Forwards: Ahmed Akaichi (Al-Ittihad, Saudi Arabia), Fakhreddine Ben Youssef (Al Ittifaq, Saudi Arabia), Saber Khalifa (Club Africain), Wahbi Khazri (Rennes, France)

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