As Russia prepares to open the festivities for this year’s World Cup, we’re going to preview each group and discuss the exciting match ups to come. Today we’ll examine Group G.
Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
Belgium qualified for the 2018 World Cup with relative ease, as the nation went undefeated and topped their group in qualifying. Scoring a record number 43 goals, the offensive power was evident, while they only conceded six goals in the ten matches played. Amidst some initial concerns regarding their defensive abilities, Belgium are considered by many to be serious contenders this year with one of the strongest squads in the tournament. Lead by Captain Eden Hazard, Belgium finds themselves with one of the leading scorers in the Premier League which is home to a large portion of Belgium’s roster. There are questions regarding Kevin De Bruyne’s ability to perform on the international stage, and if others, such as Romalu Lukaku, Vincent Komany, and Thomas Meunier will be able to fill the roles they’re assigned to. With the creativity in tactics brought by Roberto Martinez, Belgium is definitely a threat to go deep in the tournament and could quite possibly take home the title.
This is Panama’s first World Cup. After some frustrating matches with Trinidad and Tobago, the US and Mexico in qualifying, Panama was able to gain their ticket to Russia in an exciting finish against Costa Rica. What the Panamanians lack in skill, they make up for in effort as this roster is full of hard-working players determined to make their debut in the World Cup a memorable one. Without a star studded roster, this will truly be a team effort with captain Roman Torres leading the charge. A big motivation for this team will be midfielder Amilcar Henriquez who was tragically killed in a robbery in 2017. Panama will be challenged to compete in this group, but should draw some confidence from close games with Northern Ireland and Norway leading up to the tournament.
Tunisia went undefeated to win their group in qualification. After missing the last three tournaments, the Tunisians were determined to re-enter the grand stage and continue their rise up the FIFA world rankings. After suffering a serious knee injury, their talisman Youssef Msakni will be dearly missed. Msakni was a central figure for the team in qualifying, generating offense and creating opportunities in the offensive end. Goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi will be tasked with protecting the goal behind an average defense which can, at times, allow for unnecessary chances. After draws against Turkey and Portugal, and a loss by a slim margin against Spain, Tunisia do look prepared to compete in this tournament and look to exit the group stages for the first time in their nations history.
England come in to the tournament going undefeated in their ten matches and finishing first in their qualifying group. While they were able to secure their spot in Russia, the offense was questionable with a mere 18 goals scored in their ten matches. England has seen some success leading up to the tournament as well, with victories over Nigeria and Costa Rica, and a draw against a strong Italy team who did not qualify for this tournament. With that, there are still questions regarding the squad and it’s firepower. Wayne Rooney is an obvious omission from the 23-man roster. With his retirement from International football in 2017, the all-time leading scorer in English football will surely be missed. Harry Kane has seen some success on his club side, and will be relied on to recreate that performance in Russia. Youngsters Harry Winks and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford will also be called upon to provide pace and creativity up front. England look to battle Belgium for the top spot in the group.