Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul thinks “the future of English football” Dele Alli is England’s main threat ahead of the two teams’ meeting on Monday and fully expects the Three Lions to banish the demons of their Euro 2016 humiliation.
England head into the World Cup in confident mood having cruised through qualifying and shown some encouraging signs under Gareth Southgate in their pre-tournament friendlies.
Southgate has been praised for getting England playing dynamic, attacking football that has been led by a group of younger, exciting talents such as Alli, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford.
Alli’s spiky personality has occasionally got him in trouble in the past and that attitude has been suggested as a potential weakness for other teams to exploit, but Maaloul only sees a great player.
“You gave me a good idea,” Maaloul joked at Sunday’s news conference when asked if Tunisia may use Alli’s petulance in their favour in the Group G clash.
“I hadn’t thought about it. He’s an excellent player, he’s the future of English football. He can play anywhere in midfield, behind a forward, as a forward, even out left.
“He’s very important especially because we know the association between him and Kane, they played together all season.
“We need to divide them on the pitch, that’s what I’ve said to the players, it would be very good, but they play collectively, dangers can come from anywhere.
“From the back with Maguire and Cahill, through the middle, out wide with [Kieran] Trippier and [Danny] Rose there are many opportunities for them in attack. But their most dangerous weapon is Alli, the way he sees the match and his last pass.”
Two years ago at Euro 2016 England were dumped out in the first knockout phase by Iceland in a major shock , however,Maaloul believes their current crop of players are “much stronger”.
“I was in the stadium watching and analysing the 2016 matches,” he said. “I can say frankly that I have not really focused on analysing that performance.
“I think that more than 70 per cent of the players have changed. I think there is a new team which we see with England. The current team is much stronger than 2016, so it won’t be the same.”