RAYAN, Qatar (AP) — Arab teams are making their mark at the first World Cup to be played in the Middle East.
Tunisia held off Euro semifinalists Denmark on Tuesday, who failed to get past a goalless draw in their World Cup debut, just three hours after Saudi Arabia’s upset victory over Argentina.
Against a stadium where Tunisian fans were in the majority, the North African country probably deserved more, but an expert save from goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel shortly before half-time helped Denmark hold on to the draw.
Already beaten on the pitch after Tunisia managed to get past the staunch defense, Schmeichel raised a hand to deflect a shot from Issam Jebali, who plays for Danish club Odense.
It was the kind of save his father, Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel, used to pull off.
The match marked Christian Eriksen’s return to a major tournament less than a year and a half after suffering cardiac arrest in a Euro 2020 match with Denmark.
In his usual playmaker position, Eriksen fired a dangerous shot on goal from distance in the second half that Tunisian goalkeeper Aymen Dahmen had to deflect away.
And in the corner kick that followed, the Danish shot hit the post. Almost at the end of the match, and after reviewing the play on video, the referee ruled out a penalty for a possible handball in the Tunisian area that had endangered his good result.
Denmark has been one of the most critical teams about hosting the tournament in Qatar and, during the warm-up, their players wore black long-sleeved shirts over their official red ones as a tribute to the migrant workers who died building the infrastructure. necessary for the biggest national team tournament in the world.
The Dane was one of the European teams that planned to wear the anti-discrimination armband from the “One Love” campaign before FIFA threatened to sanction their captains with yellow cards.
But Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the country’s former prime minister who now holds a senior position in the Danish federation, attended the game dressed in a coat with sleeves subtly reminiscent of a rainbow.
Denmark have ambitious goals after their Euro performance last year and near-perfect qualifying, while Tunisia are aiming to advance to the group stage for the first time in their sixth World Cup appearance.
After the first few games with little atmosphere, the large number of Tunisian fans in the stands of the Education City stadium made the North African team feel at home. The fans chanted, played drums and honked their horns every time their team had the ball, and whistled loudly every time the ball landed in the Danes’ boots.