24 August, 2021
05 September
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AfroBasket 2021 - Team Profile: Tunisia

TUNIS (Tunisia) - Tunisia's aim heading to the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 is to defend their continental title, and they know that they face an uphill task.

First, the reigning AfroBasket champions will need to pass their Group A test against high-flying Egypt, the Central African Republic - who they beat twice in the Qualifiers - and Guinea.  

Secondly, as one of the teams that hasn't lost a game in the Qualifiers - alongside Nigeria and Egypt - Tunisians are aware they are one of the the teams to beat. 

However, what makes the Tunisians different from the other 15 teams in the tournament is that they are the most consistent team in the entire competition, with half of the team being playing together for over a decade.

In an insight, this might be the "last AfroBasket dance" for the likes of Mourad El Mabrouk (34), Salah Mejri (35), Slimane Radhouane (41), and Mohamed Hadidane (35).

The 30th edition of the tournament gets under way in Kigali, Rwanda from August 24 to September 5. 

Here are some key elements about Tunisia.

Team: Tunisia
FIBA Ranking Men
: 30th (World); 2nd (Africa)
Last participation in the AfroBasket: 2017 (5 wins, Champions)
Best result at AfroBasket: African champions in 2011 and 2017
How they qualified for the 2021 AfroBasket - Winners of Group A of the Qualifiers at 6-0. 
World: Tunisia made their FIBA Basketball World Cup debut in 2010 in Turkey, where they finished last at 0-5. Tunisia returned to the World Cup in 2019 in China, where they finished 20th in the 32-team event.

By winning the FIBA AfroBasket 2011, Tunisia secured their first-ever Olympics ticket for the London Games 2012.

Since the London Games, Tunisia have attempted to return to the Olympics on two straight occasions, via the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2016 and 2020, but they fell short. 

Youth teams impact: Tunisia U18 and U16 teams have become regular participants at continental competitions. Some member of the current men's team have, at some point in their career, worn the country's jersey at continental and world stage competition.

Back in 2011, Omar Abada, for instance, starred at the FIBA U19 Basketball 2011 in Latvia, before Achref Gannouni, Jawhar Jawadi and Adam Rassil made their names heard in the tournament four years later in Heraklion, Greece. 

Although Tunisia have never won a youth continental trophy, they have reached the Semi-Finals six times (FIBA U18 African Championship 2010, 2014 and 2016 and FIBA U16 African Championship in 2011, 2013 and 2017).

History/Qualification: This year's African Championship mark Tunisia's eleventh straight appearance dating back to 1999. In the process, Tunisia reached the Semi-Finals five times (2001, 2009, 2011, 2015 and 2017).

Half of the squad that won Tunisia's first AfroBasket in 2011 is heading to Kigali chasing the country's third title in a decade

Tunisia have hosted two straight editions of the tournament in 2015 and 2017, although the latter was co-hosted with Senegal in a last-minute decision to replace original hosts Republic of Congo. Prior to that, Tunisia hosted the tournament in 1965 and 1987.

Key Players: Makram Ben Romdhane, Salah Mejri, Radhouane Slimane, Mouhamed Hadidane and Mourad El Mabrouk have been part of the Tunisian fabric for over a decade. The quintet was part of the AfroBasket 2011 winning side in Madagascar, and remain as valuable to this day. 

Omar Abada, one of Tunisia's brightest talent in recent years, has been huge for the two-time African champions.

New addition: Michael Roll made his Tunisia men's team debut  at AfroBasket 2015. If the 34-year-old shooting guard, who hasn't featured at the Qualifiers, is available for the Kigali showdown, Tunisians will have a massive piece to go-to. 

Head coach: German Dirk Bauermann replaced five-time AfroBasket winner Mario Palma as their head coach in January 2020. 

Adel Tlatli led Tunisia to the AfroBasket 2011 title; Mario Palma was in charge in the 2017 title run. Can Dirk Bauermann become the third coach to guide Tunisia to an AfroBasket title?

Bauermann has a long history in international basketball, having coached his country at three editions of the FIBA Basketball World Cup (1994, 2006 and 2010), he also masterminded Germany at four straight EuroBaskets from 2005 to 2011. Bauermann coached Poland at EuroBasket 2013 and his most recent national team job was at the helm of Iran in 2015.

Outlook: There've been three different African champions (Angola, Nigeria and Tunisia) over the last three editions of AfroBasket. 

But it hasn't always been like that. With Angola facing an apparent decline, Tunisia could become the most successful African team of the decade (2011-2021) if they they lift the trophy in Kigali.