We proceed our 2018 World Cup previews with Group G, which is extremely prime-heavy. Belgium is among the favorites to hoist the cup in Russia, whereas England ought to simply work its approach into second place. Whereas Tunisia and Panama could possibly be pesky, the European squads ought to advance.
Group A, Group B, Group C, Group D, Group E, Group F
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH
Belgium is among the favorites on this yr’s event and far of that has to do with the staff’s highly effective midfield. Whereas Eden Hazard is likely one of the world’s greatest gamers, Kevin De Bruyne has surpassed him as the most effective Beligum has to supply.
The person who makes Manchester Metropolis go, De Bruyne is the right trendy attacking midfielder. He was named the Premier League Playmaker of the Season this yr, was on this season’s PFA Staff of the Yr and was identify Man Metropolis’s Participant of the Yr for the second time.
The 26-yr-previous is peaking on the proper time to propel Belgium on a World Cup run.
Catherine Ivill/Getty Photographs
If England goes to make at run in Russia, it might want to discover a solution to rating objectives. Few on the planet do this higher than the group’s captain, Harry Kane.
At simply 24 years previous, Kane has developed into one of many recreation’s greatest finishers. In one hundred fifty Premier League maches for Tottenham Hotspur, he has tallied 108 objectives. And in simply 24 nationwide staff appearances for the Three Lions, he has discovered the again of the web thirteen occasions. The objective-scoring machine has gained the Premier League’s Golden Boot twice and has been named to the league’s Group of the Yr in 4 straight seasons.
Kane might want to present up huge on the 2018 World Cup if England is to compete for its first championship in fifty two years. Fortunately, he’s developed into an unimaginable objective-scorer.
With Youssef Msakni out for the World Cup after tearing a knee ligament, Tunisia will want somebody to step up as a go-to playmaker in his absence. That duty will virtually definitely fall on the shoulders of Wahbi Khazri, who had an impressive membership season.
Khazri was loaned from Sunderland to Rennes this season and he made the a lot of the transfer. In 24 league matches he tallied 9 objectives and in 29 complete appearances he bagged eleven. He has additionally scored 12 objectives in his 36 matches for the nationwide workforce.
An attacking midfielder by commerce, Khazri can transfer across the pitch, and has been used as a “false 9” for Tunisia up to now. He might want to present one thing particular in Russia, because the Tunisians are actually up towards it on this group.
JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Pictures
World Cup Finals Appearances: 12
Greatest End: Fourth place 1986
FIFA World Rank: three
This will lastly be the Pink Devils’ time to shine. After a run to the quarterfinals in 2014, Belgium is now one of many favorites to take residence a World Cup. It’s not exhausting to see why.
The squad has an impressive supervisor in Roberto Martinez, plus a humiliation of gifted gamers. De Bruyne and Hazard are arguably the world’s greatest playmaking duo, whereas Romelo Lukaku is a world-class striker up entrance. On the again, the Belgians boast an oustanding keeper in Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois, and if defensemen Jan Vertonghen and Vincent Kompany can keep wholesome, this group will probably be stout prime to backside.
However can Belgium deal with the expectations that can be heaped upon them this yr? The Pink Devils have been one of many favorites at Euro 2016 and bowed out within the quarterfinals with a tremendously disappointing three-1 loss to Wales. Solely time will inform if they will keep away from comparable heartbreak in Russia.
Earlier World Cup Finals Appearances: 14
Greatest Finishes: Champions in 1966, fourth place in 1990
FIFA World Rank: thirteen
Disappointments on the most important stage have haunted the English nationwide workforce for years. On the 2014 World Cup, the Three Lions didn’t escape the group stage and at Euro 2016 they have been bounced from the Spherical of sixteen by Iceland in an unlimited upset. It’s no marvel the staff has a brand new, youthful look with a brand new supervisor.
Gary Cahill, Ashley Younger and Jamie Vardy are the one gamers on this roster over 30 years previous, as England has embraced a youth motion. Even with a younger squad, this group had higher advance out of the group or there will probably be hell to pay.
The workforce could have younger expertise all over the place, however particularly up entrance. With Kane, Raheem Sterling, and Marcus Rashford, there’s loads of youth at ahead, whereas Danny Welbeck and Vardy present the expertise. Within the midfield, Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard, Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier ought to all see time.
In the meantime, on the again it’s anybody’s guess who will get enjoying time. There’s a ton of inexperience that can be mixed with Manchester Metropolis’s Kyle Walker, plus Cahill, Younger and Manchester United’s Phil Jones. If issues get crumble for England it should virtually definitely be due to a scarcity of continuity in their very own finish.
Earlier World Cup Finals Appearances: four
Greatest End: Group stage 1978, 1998, 2002 and 2006
FIFA World Rank: 14
Tunisia enters the 2018 World Cup as one thing of a wild card, as nobody is aware of precisely what to anticipate. Regardless of an clearly inflated FIFA world rating, the Eagles of Carthage (nice nickname) aren’t anticipated to do a lot injury. However don’t dismiss them so shortly.
Tunisia gained its qualifying group with out dropping a match and solely surrendered 4 objectives in six matches. The truth is, the Tunisians didn’t lose in any respect throughout qualification.
On this, their fifth World Cup, now they may try and lastly get out of the group stage, they usually should do it with out their greatest participant, Youssef Msakni. As an alternative, Tunisia will rely closely on the aforementioned Khazri and on 31-yr-previous striker Saber Khalifa.
Dealing with England and Belgium of their first two matches will probably be brutal for the Tunisians, but when they will salvage some extent in a type of contests, a berth within the Spherical of sixteen shall be inside attain on the ultimate day of group play.
RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Photographs
Earlier World Cup Finals Appearances: zero
Greatest Finishes: N/A
FIFA World Rank: fifty five
Panama is making its first journey to the World Cup and that’s a cause for celebration…until you’re a fan of American soccer, as a result of the Panamanians took one of many three automated qualification spots the U.S. ought to have had. Sorry, did I simply deliver up a painful reminiscence?
Los Canaleros will experience into Russia thrilled to be there, however they don’t seem to be anticipated to superior previous the group stage. Seattle Sounders defender Roman Torres is the workforce’s greatest participant, whereas 37-yr-previous captain Felipe Baloy will probably be his companion in crime on the again line. Up entrance, the nation’s all-time main objective scorers Blas Perez and Luis Tejada (each have forty three worldwide objectives) will attempt to make one thing occur.
As with the Tunisians, the sport right here is to land some extent in one of many first two matches towards Belgium and England. If the Panamanians do this, they’ll have an opportunity to advance. If not? Right here’s hoping they benefit from the journey.
June 18: Belgium vs. Panama (Sochi), eleven a.m. ET/eight a.m. PT
June 18: Tunisia vs. England (Volgograd), 2 p.m. ET/eleven a.m. PT
June 23: Belgium vs. Tunisia (Moscow), eight p.m. ET/5 a.m. PT
June 24: England vs. Panama (Nizhny), eight a.m. ET/5 a.m. PT
June 28: England vs. Belgium (Kaliningrad), 2 p.m. ET/eleven a.m. PT
June 28: Panama vs. Tunisia (Saransk), 2 p.m. ET/eleven a.m. PT
ALL ODDS TO WIN GROUP VIA ODDSCHECKER (PERCENTAGE CHANCE TO ADVANCE IN PARENTHESES)
BELGIUM 5/6 (ninety one%)
ENGLAND eleven/eight (86%)
TUNISIA 20/1 (15%)
PANAMA 50/1 (eight%)