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WORLD CUP 2018 - Group G Preview: Can Hazard & Belgium's 'golden generation' topple England?

Up until the first ball is kicked in the Luzhniki Stadium Stadium in Moscow, Tribal will be providing you with in-depth analysis of all the 32 teams that will compete for the Jules Rimet Trophy.

Here are the previews for:

Group A

Group B

Group C

Group D

Group E

Group F

Now let's continue with Group G, which features England, Belgium, Tunisia & Panama



England

How did they get here?

The Three Lions navigated their way to Russia by finishing on top their European qualification group, ahead of Slovenia and Slovakia. England have won the tournament once, way back in 1966.

Who are they?

Gareth Southgate's squad possess glaring deficiencies, but ironically, those weaknesses are the same reason why England are genuine World Cup contenders. With their third youngest squad ever at the tournament and a genuine lack of star power - compared to past squads at least - their has been a certain quietness from the usually fervent English press. This pre-tournament lack of pressure could have a telling effect on Southgate's inexperienced squad. Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Jesse Lingard & Marcus Rashford can provide creativity, pace and flair alongside captain Harry Kane. Perhaps most importantly for England, Southgate has a clear tactical plan in mind. He will play three at the back and the subsequent battle for those spots has increased the play of all his centre-backs, while Jordan Pickford will likely get the nod ahead of Jack Butland in goals. There is a lack of world-class quality in the midfield, but if the likes of Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson can focus on the defensive side of their game then England's attacking players will inevitably reap the rewards.



The young player to watch…

Marcus Rashford. The Manchester United youngster could be the key for England should he start alongside Harry Kane up front.

How will they advance?

England should have no trouble advancing through to the knockout rounds. And with a favourable draw, even finishing second behind Belgium doesn't hinder their chances of going far in Russia.

Group stage fixtures: Tunisia (June 18 - Volgograd), Panama (June 24 - Nizhny Novgorod), Belgium (June 28 - Kaliningrad)

Squad:

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

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

Midfielders: Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Dele Alli (Tottenham), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Manchester City)

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



Belgium

How did they get here?

The Red Devils finished on top of their European qualification group, winning nine out of 10 fixtures and scoring 43 goals. They achieved their highest World Cup finish four years ago after being knocked out in the quarterfinals by Argentina.

Who are they?

It's perplexing when you read Belgium's squad list but still have the feeling that they are not one of the clear favourites in Russia. So what is missing from Roberto Martinez's side? We have no way of knowing for sure, but if they fail to reach at least the semi-finals, one can only assume a lack of unity could be at fault. Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne will be tasked with leading their country to the latter stages, with Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku and Michy Batshuayi part of the supporting cast. The back-three of Vincent Kompany, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen are getting green, but their experience and veteran nous will be invaluable, and having world-class goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois provides a stable presence. The disappointments of Brazil 2014 and Euro 2016 will hopefully motivate Belgium as this could be their last shot to take advantage of their 'golden generation'.



The young player to watch…

Youri Tielemans. The 21-year-old could feature if Moussa Dembele's body doesn't hold up. A star in the making, teams could try and tempt Monaco to sell him if he performs well.

Group stage fixtures: Panama (June 18 - Moscow), Tunisia (June 23 - Moscow), England (June 28 - Kaliningrad)

How will they advance?

Just like England, Belgium will have no troubles advancing in Group G. It will be the knockout rounds where there contender status will be tested.

Squad:

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

Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona)

Midfielders: Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang), Nacer Chadli (West Brom), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Monchengladbach), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad), Thomas Meunier (Paris Saint-Germain), Youri Tielemans (Monaco), Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian)

Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United), Dries Mertens (Napoli)






Tunisia

How did they get here?

The north African nation booked a ticket to Russia by finishing on top of their CAF qualification group. Tunisia are yet to advance past the group stage in any of their four World Cup appearances.

Who are they?

It's hard to discredit Tunisia given their qualifying campaign as Nabil Maaloul's side went undefeated and conceded just one goal. They possess no real star power or overall talent throughout the squad. They will, however, provide a tough test for the two powerhouses in Group G due to their determination and doggedness. Maaloul will line up his players in a 4-3-3 system, with Sunderland attacker Wahbi Khazri, who is probably Tunisia's top player after he enjoyed a fruitful loan spell with Rennes this season, leading the way. Notable injuries to Youssef Msakni and Taha Yassine Khenissi severely impact Tunisia's already slim hopes of progressing in Group G.



The young player to watch…

Ellyes Skhiri. The 23-year-old midfielder plies his trade for Montpellier in Ligue 1 and he'll be hoping that experience serves him well in Russia.

How will they advance?

One of those old fashioned World Cup cinderella stories. They must hope for a rusty English outfit in the first game or else it will be an early exit for Tunisia.

Group stage fixtures: England (June 17 - Volgograd), Belgium (June 22 - Moscow), Panama (June 28 - Saransk)

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Aymen Mathlouthi (Al-Baten), Farouk Ben Mustapha (Al-Shabab), Moez Hassen (Chateauroux)

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

Midfielders: Mohamed Amine Ben Amor (Al-Ahli SC), Sai-Eddine Khaoui (Troyes), Ahmed Khalil (Club Africain), Ellyes Skhiri (Montpellier), Ferjani Sassi (Al-Nasr), Ghaylene Chaalali (ES Tunis)

Forwards: Anice Badri (ES Tunis), Fakhreddine Ben Youssef (Al-Ittifaq), Naim Sliti (Dijon), Bassem Srarfi (Nice), Wahbi Khazri (Rennes), Saber Khalifa (Club Africain)





Panama

How did they get here?

The tiny Central American nation booked the final CONCACAF qualification spot at the expense of the USA. This is Panama's first World Cup appearance.

Who are they?

Colombian manager Hernan Dario Gomez will set up his side up to pester, kick and annoy their far superior opponents in Group G. Los Canaleros fought their way through qualifying and despite the obvious gap in talent, they will fly to Russia expecting to ruffle a few feathers among football's elite. Gomez's 5-4-1 system will attempt to test England and Belgium - even Tunisia for that matter - to see if they can break down his deep-lying forces. Gabriel Torres and Blas Perez will be tasked with pressuring the opposition up front and will be hoping to also inflict some damage going forward.



The young player to watch…

Ismael Diaz. Once on the books at Porto, the 21-year-old winger will be hoping to be a surprising star for his country.

How will they advance?

Much like Tunisia, Panama will be hoping for a miracle to get through the most lopsided group at the World Cup.

Group stage fixtures: Belgium (June 17 - Volgograd), England (June 24 - Nizhny Novgorod), Tunisia (June 28 - Saransk)

Squad:

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

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

Midfielders: (Universidad San Martín de Porres), Armando Cooper (Club Universidad de Chile), Anibal Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes), Gabriel Gomez (Bucaramanga), Valentin Pimentel (Plaza Amador), Alberto Quintero (Universitario de Lima), Jose Luis Rodríguez (KAA Gent).

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

Andrew Maclean
About the author

Andrew Maclean

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