Reports & Previews

2018 World Cup Group G preview

Belgium and England are expected to fight for top spot in Group G while Panama and Tunisia will need to pull off an upset to reach the World Cup knockout stage.

The Red Devils, as the Belgians are affectionately known, are one of the dark horses to go all the way in Russia as they boast one of the most talented squads at the tournament. Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, and Romelu Lukaku will make life difficult for any opponent, while Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany, and Thibaut Courtois will give them a solid foundation.

Aside from the goalless draw with Portugal, Roberto Martinez's charges have been scoring freely in their international friendlies ahead of the tournament. They beat Saudi Arabia 4-0, Egypt 3-0, and Costa Rica 4-1.

Similar to Belgium, the Three Lions are also considered to have an outside chance of lifting the World Cup trophy. Manager Gareth Southgate has some prolific goalscorers in his squad with the likes of Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, and Raheem Sterling raring to go. The trio bagged 87 goals between them across all competitions this past season.

England's weakness, however, may be their defence. Southgate has opted to deploy a three-man defence in the build-up to the World Cup but has not settled on his preferred trio yet. John Stones, Kyle Walker, Phil Jones, Harry Maguire, Gary Cahill, and Joe Gomez have all featured at centre-back.

Panama will be competing at their first World Cup, after unexpectedly finishing above the USA during Concacaf qualifying, and are expected to give absolutely everything they have for a place in the knockout phase.

Los Canaleros will be pinning much of their hope on star forward Luis Tejada. The 36-year-old has accumulated 43 goals in 105 appearances for Panama and has already stated that he will retire from international football after the World Cup. They will most likely struggle to find a win and could finish bottom of the group.

Tunisia are set for their fifth World Cup appearance after finishing top of group A in the African qualifiers. However, they will find it hard to get out of Group G as they would need a win against either Belgium or England.

Nabil Maaloul's charges will be spearheaded by star striker Wahbi Khazri. The 27-year-old was sent out on loan from Sunderland to Stade Rennais and impressed in Ligue 1, scoring nine goals in 24 league appearances.

Anyone would be hard-pressed to bet against Belgium winning the group and England grabbing second place. However, should the two top dogs suffer from complacency, Tunisia will be more than happy to cause an upset and sneak into the next phase.