World Cup 2018 Preview – Group G
The great thing about the World Cup, is it gives some smaller nations on the world stage the opportunity to mix it with the bigger teams and Group G is a great example of this.
Both Belgium and England are teams which have ambitions to reach the latter stages of the tournament and have world renowned players in their squad. However, the other two teams in this group, Panama and Tunisia, will be looking forward to the challenge of testing themselves on the big stage against two highly ranked nations.
There is no doubting the quality in the Belgium squad and now is the time they need to deliver.
Belgium were fancied to do well at the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 European Championships but failed to perform. However, having been eliminated by Wales in the quarter-final of Euro 2016, Belgium responded with a fantastic qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup.
The Red Devils were joint top scorers in European qualifying and with the group of players at their disposal, they should go far in Russia.
Manager: Roberto Martinez was a surprise choice for Belgium but has done well during his first spell in international management. Can the Spaniard blend their individual talents into a winning team?
Key Player: There are so many to pick from but Kevin De Bruyne has been tremendous for Manchester City this season and if he can transfer his club form to the national team, Belgium have a great chance.
This will be a first World Cup for Panama, having failed in their previous attempts to qualify since 1978.
Having been drawn in a qualifying group containing Mexico, Costa Rica, United States and Honduras no one expected to see Panama in Russia. However, they secured third place in the group and while some onlookers feel it was the poor performance of the United States which allowed Panama to qualify, the Canal Men will not care.
Having ended qualifying with a -1 goal difference, scoring goals in this group could be a problem.
Manager: Hernan Dario Gomez has good international pedigree having previously steered Colombia and Ecuador to the World Cup and will have his team well prepared.
Key Player: Veteran striker, Luis Tejada will need to be at his best if Panama are to score goals in this tournament.
Having qualified for three World Cup finals in a row between 1998 and 2006, this will be the first World Cup for Tunisia in 12 years.
The Eagles of Carthage were handed arguably the easiest of the African qualifying groups with DR Congo, Libya and Guinea as their opponents. Tunisia will start the 2018 World Cup as the top ranked African team in the official FIFA world rankings but will struggle to get through this group.
Manager: Nabil Maaloul previously worked as an assistant manager in the Tunisia set-up and took charge of the team two matches in to their World Cup qualifying campaign.
Key Player: All eyes will be on striker Youssef Msakni and he will need to take the limited chances which come his way if Tunisia are to cause a shock.
The English rarely have a difficult qualifying campaign and the draw was kind to them again for the 2018 World Cup. They finished top of their group.
However, the hard work starts now and while England were comfortable in qualifying, there was nothing in their play to suggest they are going to trouble the big teams in this tournament. The Three Lions should progress from this group and have some very good players but mentally, they tend to struggle.
Manager: Gareth Southgate took charge of the England team without much experience of managing at the top level. This will be a big test for the former England international.
Key Player: Whoever gets the nod to play in goal for England is going to be key because goalkeepers have struggled in recent tournaments. The number one at the 2018 World Cup will be under huge pressure.