(Reuters) - Tunisia’s Wahbi Khazri knows a thing or two about the big-name players that await him in the group stages of the World Cup in Russia, and he will want to show that he deserves his place in the spotlight just as much as them.
Khazri, unlike most members of the North African squad, has played in the English Premier League. As a striker for Sunderland for two seasons he rubbed shoulders with players such as England’s Harry Kane and Belgium’s Vincent Kompany.
Tunisia have been drawn in the same Group G as England, Belgium and Panama.
The 27-year-old, shaven-headed forward was once rumored to be in the sights of Europe’s biggest clubs and he hit the headlines when he hammered home a spectacular volley against Chelsea in 2016, having scored against Manchester United in the same year.
But he was increasingly left unused on the substitutes’ bench by Sunderland, a far cry from his strong form in France with Bastia and Bordeaux.
He bagged three goals in total for Sunderland who, after relegation from the top flight in 2017, loaned him to Rennes of France for most of the 2017-18 campaign.
Again, Khazri started strongly for his new club, scoring on his debut against Olympique de Marseille with a deft back-heel.
But despite claiming the only goal in Tunisia’s 1-0 friendly win over Costa Rica in March, Khazri has recently endured another goal drought in France and has not scored for Rennes since March 3.
The pressure on him will be all the greater due to the loss of Tunisia’s stand-out playmaker Youssef Msakni due to injury.
Reporting by William Schomberg, editing by Ed Osmond