World Cup draw 2018: Everything you need to know about England's Group G rivals - Belgium, Tunisia and Panama

Here's what you need to know about England's World Cup opponents

Friday 01 December 2017 17:53
comments
Russia 2018: A look at England's World Cup opponents

England have been drawn into Group G for next summer’s World Cup in Russia, alongside Belgium, Tunisia and Panama.

The draw could have been a lot worse for Gareth Southgate’s side, who will begin their campaign in Volgograd against north African nation Tunisia.

They then play Panama before a potentially decisive clash with Belgium.

Here’s everything you need to know on England’s opponents.

Belgium

It's time to deliver for a team that has featured exceptional talent over the past half dozen years but has yet to reach the semifinals of a major tournament.

It is widely acknowledged they have been held back by mediocre management. Now it is up to Roberto Martinez, a Spanish coach, to get the best out of this plethora of stars.

If you have Romelu Lukaku up front, Eden Hazard as a creative genius and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois for a final lock on goal, the ingredients for success are there.

Belgium are currently ranked fifth in the world

There are issues in defense. Central defender Vincent Kompany is as brittle as he can be brilliant and there are very few credible backups available for the likes of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.

Key player: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) — Overshadowed Eden Hazard at the 2014 World Cup, he has only grown in stature, especially since his move to City and his more withdrawn position on the field.

Coach: Roberto Martinez was a surprise pick for Belgium when it ditched Marc Wilmots after a disappointing Euro 2016. The Spaniard easily adapted to life in international management.

Tunisia

Unbeaten during its qualifying campaign, Tunisia is making a return to the World Cup for the first time in 12 years.

The Eagles of Carthage qualified for Russia ahead of Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya and Guinea and will take part their fifth World Cup. They have never got beyond the group stage.

With a new generation of players including Wahbi Khazri and former Monaco defender Aymen Abdennour, their main goal will be to win a game in Russia.

Msakni (bottom) is Tunisia's star player

Key player: Youssef Msakni (Al Duhail) — The 27-year-old forward played a crucial role in qualifying, scoring a hat-trick in an away win to Guinea.

Coach: Nabil Maaloul — A former assistant under Roger Lemerre when Tunisia won the African Cup of Nations in 2002, Maaloul took over from Henri Kasperczak two matches into Tunisia's World Cup qualifying campaign.

Panama

A first-ever qualification for the World Cup earned Panama a national holiday.

The Central Americans made it to Russia in style, defeating Costa Rica 2-1 in the final qualifier.

Panama has only 4 million people, but finished ahead of the United States, which has about 320 million.

Just an aside: Panama's national game is still baseball, but soccer is moving in.

Panama are the group minnows

Key player: Luis Tejada (Universitario) — The striker has scored 43 goals for Panama.

Coach: Colombia-born Hernan Dario Gomez has worked his magic again. He got Colombia into the 1998 World Cup, and then did the same for Ecuador in 2002. Now it's Panama's turn.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments