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                                                                    Other Soccer News...

10 June 2002, 19:52 Seoul - Tokyo


Belgium and Tunisia fought their way to a rather lacklustre draw in Oita, Japan. Belgium initially took the lead through captain Marc Wilmots, but a sterling free kick from Raouf Bouzaiene just four minutes later gave both sides a point.

The Africans more than held their own in the first half, showing a good deal of skill in the process. The Belgians had the run of play and most of the possession in the second period as they pushed hard for a winner. However, both teams had to settle for a point, which leaves them needing some heroics to qualify for the second round. Belgium, who are on two points, take on Russia, while Tunisia, with just one point, play co-hosts Japan.

The game started innocently enough with both teams knocking it around in midfield, but before anyone knew it, the teams had traded goals.

Marc Wilmots, who scored Belgium’s first goal in their match against Japan, again opened the scoring for the European side. Gert Verheyen headed down for Wilmots at the edge of the goal area, and the Schalke 04 man had little trouble slotting the ball into the goal (0:1, 13’).

Tunisia, however, wasted no time equalising. Raouf Bouzaiene shot a beautiful dipping free kick from 30 metres just inside the left post and out of the reach of Belgium goalkeeper Geert De Vlieger (1:1, 17’).

Belgium had two chances to match Bouzaiene’s effort shortly after the half-hour mark, but first Branko Strupar (32’) and then Wilmots (34’) failed to get their free kicks through the crowd of Tunisian defenders.

Tunisia were the more imaginative side in the first half, and they nearly took the lead when Hatem Trabelsi made a nice run down the right side. He seemed to have picked out Ziad Jaziri alone in front of the Belgian goal, but De Vlieger did will to tip the pass away and out of danger with his fingertips (37’).

Tunisia missed by inches on their first chance of the second half. Trabelsi again started the sequence on the right flank. He served a cross to Kaies Ghodhbane, who struck a terrific volley from the edge of the area to just outside of the left post (51’).

After that great effort, however, Belgium began to dominate possession and hold the ball in the Tunisian half. The Tunisia defence bent but did not break, as they refused to allow Belgium anything more than hopeful half-chances.

Tunisia had another chance from a set piece after Slim Ben Achour earned a free kick inside the penalty arc, but Ghodhbane has his shot deflected away by the wall (84’).

After most of the second half passed with scarcely a dangerous moment, both teams had chances in injury time. Ghodhbane twice struck powerful shots from just outside the area. The first was punched out by De Vlieger (92’), and the second went just over the bar (94’).

Between those two tries, Wesley Sonck had a shot of his own from the edge of the area, missing barely wide of the right post (93’).