Group G features two nations hoping to improve on their 2014 fortunes; the highly talented squad of Belgium eager to build on their best ever World Cup finish, and the household names of England hoping to erase the memory of their timid 2014 Group Stage exit. World Cup debutants Panama are the romantic story of the group, while Tunisia’s hope on their return to the World Cup will be to upstage one of the stronger sides, especially England.

Soccer World Cup Preview – Group G

PROFILE: BELGIUM

Belgium Flag

FIFA Ranking 3rd World Cup Base Location Moscow
How they qualified Finished 1st in UEFA Qualifying Group H ahead of Greece
Form in 2017/18: Played 7, Won 6, Drew 1 (includes 3 friendlies)

 

World Cup Record: 12 Tournaments
Played 41 Draws 9 Scored 52 Penalty Shootout Wins
Wins 14 Losses 18 Conceded 66 1 out of 1

 

Round 1 / Group Stage Round of 16 Quarterfinal Semifinal Final
1930, 1934, 1938, 1954, 1970, 1998 1982**, 1990, 1994, 2002 2014 1986

 

World Cup Head to Head Records:
vs Tunisia: Played 1, Drawn 1 Last Match: Drew 1-1, 2002 Group Stage
Vs Panama: Never played against them in World Cup competition
vs England: Played 2, Draw 1, Lost 1 Last Match: Lost 1-0, 1990 Round of 16

 

Various Odds of Interest
Outright Winner 11.00, 6th favourite Group G Winner 0.75, favourite
To Reach Final No (0.12), Yes (4.75) Elimination Stage Quarterfinal (2.25)
Top Goalscorer Lukaku (1.00), Hazard (3.50), Mertens (5.00), Benteke (9.00)

 

Roberto Martinez’s Belgium enter the tournament in fine form, having been imperious in qualifying with 43 goals in 10 matches. Unbeaten in the exercise, their last competitive defeat was suffered nearly 2 years ago against the high flying Welsh in Euro 2016. Lukaku entered his country’s record books. But for such a squad full of stars, the sentiment is mixed; Belgium’s recent matches appear to still illustrate the tactical defensive frailties that plagued the Spanish manager in his coaching career, and this could well suit opportunistic opponents.

Belgium’s base of Moscow is a logical base of operations, but it doesn’t seem to serve Belgium too much in their group games. For their opening game, their opponents Panama have less to travel. For their second match against Tunisia, neither side enjoys a logistical advantage due to both being based in the capital. For the intriguing clash against England, Belgium again face the longer journey to Kaliningrad.

Yannick Carrasco World CupQuite surprisingly, Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan won’t be in the side travelling to Russia, but the Belgians hardly lack talent. A mixed season for Thibaut Courtois changes little of his shot-stopping value. In Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, they have a superbly configured centre back pairing. Paris St Germain fullback Thomas Meunier is a perfect foil for the Martinez system given his attacking prowess. The creative talents in midfield of Kevin De Bruyne and Mousa Dembele are well complemented by the steel of Youri Tielemans and Axel Witsel. Going forward is where Belgium look truly imposing with goals & danger all round in the brothers Hazard (Thorgan and Eden) and Yannick Carrasco. Add the imposing physical goalscorer that is Romelu Lukaku, well backed up by Dries Mertens, and it becomes easy to understand why Belgium are a massively compelling dark horse for the tournament.

Prediction: 1st in Group G, and a dramatic exit somewhere between the Round of 16 and the semifinal.

Belgium’s tactical naivete may be their greatest weakness alongside a relatively unconvincing left hand side defensively, and a shortness of quality in defensive midfield relative to their impressive attacking options. There’s potential for them to be involved in some fantastic encounters too, given that their qualifying track from the group could pit them against possible African romance story Senegal, last World Cup’s surprise package Colombia, the mighty Brazil, or even an imposing semifinal against France. In truth, Belgium’s limit to their progress will largely be of their own making; they could become the surprise of the tournament, or flatter to deceive. Time will tell.

Place a Soccer World Cup bet

PROFILE: TUNISIA

tunisia flag world cup

FIFA Ranking 14th World Cup Base Location Moscow
How they qualified Finished 1st in CAF Qualifying Group A ahead of DR Congo
Form in 2017/18: Played 6, Won 4, Drawn 2 (includes 2 friendlies)

 

World Cup Record: 4 Tournaments
Played 12 Draws 4 Scored 8 Penalty Shootout Wins
Wins 1 Losses 7 Conceded 17 No shootouts contested

 

Group Stage Round of 16 Quarterfinal Semifinal Final
1978, 1998, 2002, 2006

 

World Cup Head to Head Records:
vs Belgium: Played 1, Drawn 1 Last Match: Drew 1-1, 2002 Group Stage
vs Panama: Never played against them in World Cup competition
vs England: Played 1, Lost 1 Last Match: Lost 0-2, 1998 Group Stage

 

Various Odds of Interest
Group G Winner 16.25, 3rd favourite Qualify from Group Yes (3.65)

 

New coach Nabil Maaloul guided Tunisia to end their 12 year absence from the World Cup with a solid show in qualifying after a disappointing 2017 African Cup of Nations. The African nation will be keen to improve on their previous 4 showings, having failed to win a World Cup game since their solitary victory in 1978’s group opener against Mexico.

Intriguingly, Tunisia’s first game against England, a reprise of their 1998 Group Stage encounter, involves less travel for the African side. The fixture against group favourites Belgium in Moscow poses no travel advantages or hindrances given both sides’ training bases in the capital. Tunisia’s final game against Panama in Saransk is the only occasion where the North Africans are at a travel disadvantage, given the North American side’s training base in the same city.

Wahbi-Khazri World CupTunisia will be without attacking midfielder and top scorer Youssef Msakni, lost to cruciate ligament surgery ahead of the World Cup.  Flair and creativity is still present in the likes of star playmaker Wahbi Khazri, young stars Naim Sliti and Saif-Eddine Khaoui, as well as veteran striker Saber Khalifa, but there’s no shaking the impression that they’ll be short of the goals needed to progress meaningfully. Luckily, Tunisia’s greatest strength is in defending from the middle of the park; their midfield options of Ferjani Sassi, Mohamed Amine Ben Amor and Ghaylen Chaaleli were already compelling in their ability to strangle games and frustrate opponents, but it’s probably emerging Montpellier anchor Elyess Skhiri who will be the one to pay a close eye to in Russia.

Prediction: 3rd in Group G

Tunisia look primed to be difficult to beat, making their match with England an intriguing and critical encounter in particular to pay attention to. It’s difficult to shake the sentiment that they’ll be short of the goalscoring prowess they need to progress, so unless new heroes emerge, Tunisia will likely remain with yet another World Cup memory of nothing more than Group Stage matches.

PROFILE: PANAMA

FIFA Ranking 55th World Cup Base Location Saransk
How they qualified Finished 3rd in the Final CONCACAF Qualifying Group behind Costa Rica and ahead of Honduras
Form in 2017/18: Played 11, Won 4, Drawn 2, Lost 5 (includes 4 friendlies)

 

World Cup Record: 0 Tournaments

 

Various Odds of Interest
Group G Winner 39.00, worst in group Qualify from Group Yes (7.50)
Top Goalscorer No scorer (3.00), Tejada / Torres (5.00), Cooper / Arroyo / Perez (6.00)

 

Panama qualified for their first World Cup in dramatic fashion; a 4-0 defeat to the underperforming USA was followed by a huge win over Costa, which proved just enough to rank ahead of Honduras for automatic qualification.

Panama’s training base of Saransk has turned out to be an advantageous location for all their travelling concerns in their group matches. They travel less than both Belgium and England for their first two encounters in Sochi and Nizhny Novgorod, and their third game against Tunisia takes place in the very same city as their base.

Roman Torres World cupPanama’s debut in the World Cup will likely be characterized by several veterans; captain and defensive hero Roman Torres and his teammate Felipe Baloy, experienced goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, and striker Blas Perez. There’s a healthy blend of emerging youthful talent as well, including fullback Michael Murillo and attacking midfielder Miguel Carmago. But it’s arguably the core of top scorer Gabriel Torres, anchor midfielder Anibal Godoy and winger Alberto Quintero who will be most critical to Panama’s positive fortunes in Russia.

Prediction: 4th in Group G  

Coach Hernan Gomez has worked wonders with the Panama side to qualify for Russia 2018, but the tournament is seldom kind to debutants. Panama are not expected to buck the trend, but the opportunity remains an excellent one for the Central American nation to build on its footballing prospects from 2018. Last place and a lot of good lessons to take home beckon for Gomez and his team.

PROFILE: ENGLAND

England World Cup

FIFA Ranking 13th World Cup Base Location St. Petersburg
How they qualified Finished 1st in UEFA Qualifying Group F ahead of Slovakia and Scotland
Form in 2017/18: Played 8, Won 5, Drawn 3 (includes 4 friendlies)

 

World Cup Record: 14 Tournaments, 1 World Cup titles (1966)
Played 62 Draws 20 Scored 79 Penalty Shootout Wins
Wins 26 Losses 16 Conceded 56 0 of 3

 

Group Stage Round of 16 Quarterfinal Semifinal Final
1950, 1958, 2014 1982**, 1998, 2010 1954, 1962, 1970, 1986, 2002, 2006 1990 1966

 

World Cup Head to Head Records:
vs Belgium: Played 2, Won 1, Draw 1 Last Match: Won 1-0, 1990 Round of 16
vs Tunisia: Played 1, Won 1 Last Match: Won 2-0, 1998 Group Stage
vs Panama: Never played against them in World Cup competition

 

Various Odds of Interest
Outright Winner 19.00, 7th favourite Group G Winner 1.15, 2nd favourite
To Reach Final No (0.06), Yes (6.50) Elimination Stage Round of 16 (2.15)
Top Goalscorer Kane (1.20), Sterling (6.00), Alli (6.50), Vardy / Rashford (8.00)

 

The home of the most marketable league in the world enters the 2018 World Cup off the back of the most disappointing showing since failing to qualify in 1994. England’s previous Group Stage exit only took place back in 1958, making 2014’s insipid, winless showing all the more dissatisfactory to one of the only nations ever to win this tournament in its history. England’s qualifying was smooth, with only 3 goals conceded in 10 matches, but goalscoring appears to be a challenge outside of the reliable talents of star striker and new England captain Harry Kane.

England’s base of St. Petersburg is arguably the most disadvantageous of all the sides in Group G. Tunisia travel a shorter distance from their base in Moscow to play the opening game in Volgograd, as do Panama from their base in Saransk to face England in Nizhny Novgorod. Luckily for England, their final match against group favourites Belgium in Kaliningrad represents a slightly shorter trip for the Three Lions.

Harry Kane World cupGareth Southgate’s new look England is full of many of their younger stars rather than their limiting veterans. The potency of the team in transitional attack is considerable with the pace of Raheem Sterling, Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford only surpassed by the imperious finishing of Harry Kane. Exciting young attacking fullback Trent Alexander Arnold offers meaningful depth to the likely first choices of Danny Rose, Kyle Walker or Kieran Trippier, and Tottenham attacking midfielder Dele Alli offers both goals and playmaking abilities in spades.

Prediction: 2nd in Group G, with either a banana skin loss in the Round of 16 to Senegal or Colombia, otherwise the obligatory defeat to the Germans in the quarterfinals

England, on paper, should be comfortable qualifiers in Group G, with even the potential to surprise Belgium given the propensity of the Three Lions’ counter attacking strengths to work against teams who love to dominate possession of the ball. However, England’s defence and midfield appear considerably below par to the extent needed to really impose a meaningful run in this tournament. Attacking capabilities certainly aren’t lacking, but deeper progression in the World Cup needs the ability to prevent teams from scoring, and England are just lacking too much quality in the middle to properly impose their footballing will on opponents. Add the apparent over-reliance on Harry Kane for goals, and their prospects past the round of 16 run ever so thin. 

Soccer World Cup Group Previews and Predictions

Soccer World Cup Preview – Group A (Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group B (Portugal, Spain, Morocco, IR Iran)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group C (France, Australia, Peru, Denmark)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group D (Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group E (Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group F (Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group G (Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group H (Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan)

Place a Soccer World Cup bet

MATCH SCHEDULE & CURRENT ODDS*

18 June 2018 Sochi Belgium 0.13 v Panama 27.29 Draw  7.04
18 June 2018 Volgograd Tunisia 9.16 v England 0.32 Draw  3.77
23 June 2018 Moscow Belgium 0.26 v Tunisia 12.70 Draw  4.57
24 June 2018 Nizhny Novgorod England 0.18 v Panama 19.06 Draw  5.32
28 June 2018 Saransk Panama 2.35 v Tunisia 1.44 Draw  2.35
28 June 2018 Kaliningrad England 2.00 v Belgium 1.32 Draw  2.19

 

Place a Soccer World Cup bet

*Please note – odds mentioned above are correct at time of publishing but are subject to change, so always check the latest published odds to be fully certain before betting.

**Certain tournaments had slightly different formats in the past, so the placing most aligned to the current tournament format has been chosen.

Leave a Reply