Trabelsi: "Anything is possible"
It's been one year since Tunisia won the African Nations Cup title, crowning themselves continental champions after a rampaging performance on home soil.
They saw off the challenges of the likes of Nigeria and Morocco to win the Nations Cup for the first time and get themselves into the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup Germany.
But the 12 months since their victory has not seen the same measure of success, with just two wins from eight matches played since they lifted the continental laurels.
Right back Hatem Trabelsi, one of the heroes of the Nations Cup-winning side, sat down with FIFAworldcup.com to discuss the national team's performance over the last year and their hopes for a place at the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals.
FIFAworldcup.com: Tunisia's form over the last year has been a little erratic since winning the Nations Cup. What do you make of it?
Trabelsi: Yes, I think we lost our concentration for a while after winning the Cup. We did not concentrate as strongly as before. We lost to Cote d'Ivoire, Italy and Guinea in a few of the games but now I think our focus is back, and we all want to qualify for the World Cup. We are now three points behind the leaders Guinea (although Tunisia have played one game less) and we know that we still have a good chance to qualify. As far as we are concerned, anything is possible. We still have four home games and just two away matches to come in our group. And this gives us the optimism to know we can qualify for the World Cup.
But you have two tough opponents in your group in the form of Guinea and Morocco. Can Tunisia really qualify for a third successive World Cup?
Of course, of course. The home games that we have left are key and if we can pick up some more points away from home -- say one draw and one win -- then we'll surely qualify. We have a very good team. Most of us play club football in Europe and we are experienced. We can certainly qualify.
Sometimes the perception of the Tunisian side is that it is too experienced a team, in fact an ageing team. Is there any fresh talent coming through the ranks?
Yes, sure. We have new good players, especially those who went to the last Olympic Games in Athens. Of course there are some players who are getting a little old and I think for many this will be their last World Cup. Maybe even for me too (laughs). It's important for our country and our team and for us as players to reach the final.
Before then you will have to represent Africa to the FIFA Confederations Cup. How do you think you will do there?
It's going to be difficult for us, we are going to be playing against the best teams in the world (Tunisia are in the same group as Argentina, Germany and Australia). But we will go there with a positive mindset. The game is 90 minutes long, we have good players and we have won the African Nations Cup, so we have nothing to fear. I think we can do something good at the tournament and I just hope that all our players will be 100 percent fit, nobody is injured and if we have a full squad we can certainly achieve something.
How much of an influence has your coach Roger Lemerre had on the team?
I think he has done a lot of good work with Tunisia. He changed the mentality of the players and taught us to only think about winning. At the Nations Cup, wining was the only thing on our mind. This was different from the past when our first priority was to avoid defeat and then draw and only then win. But the mentality of the Tunisian player has changed now, now we think victory.
You were injured just before the start of the Nations Cup and only played towards the end of the tournament. At one stage you must have been scared of missing out all together?
I was afraid to miss the Nations Cup and it was very special because it was in Tunisia, in my own country and I wanted to give something to my country. I think my country has given me a lot and I had to play to give something back. I also had to try and give something extra to the team so I was relieved to play a few games and of course play in the final. I'm really happy I managed that and I felt very proud of our achievement.
Are your injury problems over now?
Yes, I'm playing again now. No problems.