With his distinctly Scottish-looking mop of ginger hair, Mohamed Karoui could easily pass off as a local if he walked down a Glasgow street. But as strange as it may seem, the 17-year-old full-back is one hundred percent Tunisian and is firmly committed to the North Africans' cause ahead of Wednesday's crunch Round-of-16 tie with France.
FIFA.com tracked down the Carthage Eagles defender and asked him about his distinctly un-Tunisian hair colour, his fair complexion and abundant freckles. "No one can understand it, but I'm pure Tunisian," he chuckles. "Believe it or not, neither of my parents are red-haired and neither is anyone in my family. I'm the only one and it's pretty strange."
With redheads so thin on the ground in his native Tunisia, it does not come as a surprise when Mohamed says that he often turns heads when he is out and about. "When I was at school or playing football people always looked surprised when they saw me because it's not something you see very often. I think they've pretty much got used to me now, though."
El Rojo (The Red One), as he is somewhat unsurprisingly known to his team-mates, is an integral part of one of the tournament surprise packages, who boast a perfect record after three games. "We were full of confidence when we arrived," he explains. "We knew we weren't favourites, but we played well in our first game and winning that gave us confidence. I never thought we'd win all three group games, but we knew we could do something big."
Two years in the making
Karoui goes on to reveal the secret behind Tunisia's stunning form in Korea. "I think it's got a lot to do with our togetherness and solidarity. There are no stars in the team. We've also spent two years together at a training centre, and we've virtually grown up together, only returning home for weekends. In fact, I saw more of my team-mates in all that time than my family. That has brought us together a lot and I see them more as my brothers than my friends."
Having spent so much time together, the Tunisians know each other's virtues and defects inside out, a basic priority in today's game, as Mohamed emphasises. "Doing so well here has got nothing to do with luck. We know each other so well we can play with our eyes shut. I know which of my team-mates can run fast and which of them like to receive the ball at their feet. That understanding makes us even stronger."
El Rojo does not yet have a professional contract with his club Esperance of Tunis, but is hopeful of sorting that out when he returns from the Far East. In the meantime, there are other ambitions to pursue. "I hope the game against France represents a chance to shine and to think about Europe. First and foremost, though, we need to get the win, and then we'll see what happens. It's going to be an important match for the whole team for sure."
Mohamed's distinctive hair is not the only thing about him that is red, as he explains. "I'm a huge Manchester United fan," he says with a laugh. "I've always liked them a lot since I was a kid. My favourite player is Cristiano Ronaldo, although he doesn't play in my position obviously. I hope I can play against him one day and that he doesn't make me suffer too much," adds the chuckling ginger dynamo ahead of what he hopes will be a red letter day for Tunisia on Wednesday.