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2018 World Cup preview: Group G

Belgium

Squad

Goalkeepers: Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool).

World Cup
Belgium’s National Team. Photo by FIFA.

Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Thomas Meunier (Paris St-Germain), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham).

Midfielders: Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang), Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham), Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Monchengladbach), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad), Youri Tielemans (Monaco), Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian).

Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea), Nacer Chadli (West Brom), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United), Dries Mertens (Napoli).

Manager: Roberto Martinez

FIFA Ranking: 3

Odds to Win: 12/1

Preview

Belgium is an extremely talented squad. They won nine of 10 games in qualifying and tied the other. They also scored 43 goals. However, that record and stat line could be misleading because the group Belgium were placed into lacked any quality teams which allowed them to easily win games.

With the amazing attacking talent on their team, Belgium is hyped up for every international tournament. They have always failed to impress. This is because the players on the team do not mesh well together. At least not in the system that manager Roberto Martinez tries to run. In addition, Martinez’s quality as a coach has been questioned, De Bruyne even openly questioned their formation last year.

All in all, Belgium should still make the knockout round and there remains hope that Belgium could finally make a run this year. However, their defensive deficiencies will be their undoing against stronger teams who can exploit it.

Panama

Squad

Goalkeepers: Jose Calderon (Chorrillo), Jaime Penedo (Dinamo Bucharest), Alex Rodriguez (San Francisco).

World Cup
Panama’s National Team. Photo by FIFA.

Defenders: Felipe Baloy (Municipal CSD), Harold Cummings (San Jose Earthquakes), Erick Davis (Dunajska Streda), Fidel Escobar (San Miguelito), Michael Murillo (New York Red Bulls), Adolfo Machado (Houston Dynamo), Luis Ovalle (Olimpia), Roman Torres (Seattle Sounders).

Midfielders: Jose Luis Rodriguez (Gent), Yoel Barcenas (Cafetaleros de Tapachula), Armando Cooper (Universidad de Chile), Anibal Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes), Gabriel Gomez (Bucaramanga), Valentin Pimentel (Plaza Amador), Alberto Quintero (Universitario).

Forwards: Abdiel Arroyo (Alajuelense), Ismael Diaz (Deportivo La Coruna), Blas Perez (Municipal), Luis Tejada (Sports Boys), Gabriel Torres (CD Huachipato).

Manager: Hernan Dario Gomez

FIFA Ranking: 55

Odds to Win: 1000/1

Preview

Panama is a good story. Them making it through qualifying is impressive as it is. Panama will not be able to make it through the group stage against teams as strong as Belgium or England. They just lack the talent to compete.

Tunisia

Squad

Goalkeepers: Farouk Ben Mustapha (Al Shabab), Mouez Hassen (Nice), Aymen Mathlouthi (Al Baten).

World Cup
Tunisian National Team. Photo by Fethi Delaid/Getty Images.

Defenders: Rami Bedoui (Etoile du Sahel), Yohan Benalouane (Leicester), Syam Ben Youssef (Kasimpasa), Dylan Bronn (Gent), Oussama Haddadi (Dijon), Ali Maaloul (Al Ahly), Yassine Meriah (CS Sfaxien), Hamdi Nagguez (Zamalek).

Midfielders: Wahbi Khazri (Sunderland), Anice Badri (Esperance), Mohamed Ben Amor (Etoile Sportive du Sahel), Ferjani Sassi (Al Nasr), Ellyes Skhiri (Montpellier).

Forwards: Saif-Eddine Khaoui (Marseille), Fakhreddine Ben Youssef (Al Ettifaq), Saber Khalifa (Club Africain), Bassem Srarfi (Nice), Naim Sliti (Lille), Ahmed Khalil (Club Africain), Ghilane Chaalali (Esperance).

Manager: Nabil Maaloul

FIFA Ranking: 21

Odds to Win: 500/1

Preview

Tunisia is a team that has a chance to upset one of the two stronger teams. They don’t have the same quality as either Belgium or England but they are tactically sound and have a quick pace, perfect for a defensive counter-attacking game. Unfortunately, Tunisia suffered an injury to their best player Youssef Msakni as well as first choice striker Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. This kind of limits manager Nabil Maaloul’s options as he will have to hope that his backups are good enough to compensate.

All in all, expect Tunisia to push England and Belgium and keep all of their games tight. Best case scenario, Tunisia somehow pulls off a win over England or Belgium and makes it to the knockout round.

England

Squad

Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley).

World Cup
England’s National Team. Photo by FIFA.

Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Harry Maguire (Leicester), Danny Rose (Tottenham), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Ashley Young (Manchester United).

Midfielders: Dele Alli, Eric Dier (both Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea).

Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal).

Manager: Gareth Southgate

FIFA Ranking: 12

Odds to Win: 18/1

Preview

England is not a favorite in this World Cup. That being said they have the young talent to make it to at least the first stage of knockouts. Harry Kane is going to score goals, Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli are sure to impress and England is still strong enough to beat nearly anyone in the tournament on their best day. Gareth Southgate is willing to be flexible with his formation and strategy use and he puts a lot of emphasis on ball retention. While England might not win this year they have a ton of young talent and seem to be primed for a bright future.

Prediction

The winner of this group is going to come down to Belgium and England. It will likely be decided by who wins their head to head match-up. Belgium is going to win the group followed by England, Tunisia and then finally Panama. Belgium has the talent to make a run if the team can finally mesh together and utilize the vast talents on the team. England could make it to the semi-finals in a best-case scenario. However, they also have the floor to not even make it to the knockout stage. Tunisia’s ceiling is the first knockout stage. Panama has probably already reached their ceiling, just a win would be a miracle for them.

 

Featured image by FIFA

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