You already know the drill. Time to take a look at Group G from the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Here’s what the group looks like.
Draw: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
Two clear-cut favorites in this one with a lot of talent to watch, but will we see an upset in group G?
One of the more well-rounded squads in the tournament, Belgium has a good chance to go very far in this tournament. They made it to the quarter finals of the Euros in 2016 and had a perfect WCQ cycle, only dropping points in a 1-1 draw with Greece. They also had a relatively easy cycle, but they handled every opponent with ease, displaying their strength as a squad.
In goal, Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea, England) is the first choice. A proven talent in both England and Spain, he has he capabilities to be one of the best GKs in the tournament. A back line led by Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham, England) and Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham, England) have combined for 6 clean sheets in the 10 WCQs they have played, and will look to continue their defense. Their weakest point on the team might be the outside back position, Thomas Meunier (PSG, France) and Jordan Lukaku (Lazio, Italy) can do the job, but are more known for their attacking abilities rather than the defensive. If Belgium are going to get beat, it will be on the wings.
Their midfield is scary good. Even without cast away CM Radja Nainggolan (Roma, Italy), they are still solid. Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian, China) and Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United, England) lock down the center of midfield defensively. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City, England), who is seen as the best player in the Premier League right now, controls the CAM role. On the wings, Eden Hazard (Chelsea, England) and Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid, Spain) put defenders on skates with their pace and skills.
Their attack consists of Dries Mertens (Napoli, Italy) and big money move Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United, England). They have combined for 16 goals in WCQs and another 20 in their respective leagues. Lukaku is a strong hold up forward while Mertens is a quick runner behind the lines. Where this attack will fail is if Lukaku’s touch is off. He’s known for not having the best first touch, which has let him down on multiple occasions in the Premier League. They can focus the attack around him, but he is a big part of the attack nevertheless. If he is off, their attack is off, but in this group, they should have no problem finishing at the top.
England, England, England. After an embarrassing showing at the Euros this year, England bounced back very well, going without a loss in WCQs. In these 10 games, they put up 8 (!) clean sheets. They are heading into this tournament with a head full of steam. England are ready to prove that they are a force to be taken seriously in the footballing world.
In goal, Joe Hart (West Ham, England) locks things down. While having a tough year in the Premier League, he has shown his ability for the Three Lions, starting 9 of the 10 games in WCQ. In defense, Gary Cahill (Chelsea, England) and John Stones (Manchester City, England) control the center, with Ryan Bertrand (Southampton, England) and Kyle Walker (Manchester City, England) fill the wing back role. They are known for their attacking ability and will contribute greatly to the England attack.
In midfield, Jordan Henderson (Liverpool, England) leads the team in the center of the park. Delli Alli (Tottenham, England) fills the attacking midfield role. Alex Oxalde-Chamberlin (Liverpool, England) and Raheem Sterling (Manchester City, England) fill the wide midfield spots. They have the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard on the bench as well, who can really provide a spark if needed.
Up top, one of the hottest strikers in the world right now is Harry Kane. He has 5 goals in WCQs and another 12 for Tottenham this season. In the past 3 seasons, he has scored 20+ goals, and looks to be on pace for that mark again this season. He will be a huge part of England’s success this year. If he does not score, they will have a difficult time picking up points. However, it would not be surprising to see England drop points in the group at least once, and finish second in the group.
Tunisia is entering their 1st world cup since 2006, qualifying at the top of Group A in African qualifying. The Tunisians had a strong WCQ cycle, only drawing twice and never losing. They had 3 clean shets in 6 games, and scored in every game except one. They rarely blow teams out (just one win by more than 1 goal in WCQs) but they know how to get results.
In goal, Aymen Mathlouthi (Etoile du Sahel, Tunisia) has started every game. Ali Maaloul (Al Alhy, Egypt), Syam Ben Youssef (Kasimpasa, Tunisia) and Hamdi Nagguez (Etoile du Sahel, Tunisia) lock down the back line and have helped Tunisia to those 3 clean sheets.
In midfield, the main man is Wahbi Khazri (Rennes, France). Playing in Ligue 1, he has 6 goals in 10 games and will be the attacking focus for this Tunisian side. Look for him to have a break out tournament and really make a name for himself. He is joined by Mohamed Ben Amor (Etoile du Sahel, Tunisia) and Ferjani Sassi (ES Tunis, Tunisia). They may not score often, but they work hard to get into attacking positions and make things happen that stats can’t show.
In attack, Youssef Msakni (Al Duhail, Qatar) is the main striker and team leading goal scorer. He has 3 goals for Tunisia in 4 appearances and 9 goals for his club team. While not well known, he can do some serious damage to teams if they do not prepare correctly. They may not be the highest rated club, but they can cause some waves. A third-place finish is not out of reach for this side.
The Panamanians had a far from perfect WCQ cycle, including a poor 4-0 loss to the USA, but managed to finish 3rd in the Hex with 13 points. However, they are a CONCACAF Team, which means they know how to grind out results when they need them. That is what they will look to do here.
In goal, Jamie Penedo (Dinamo Bucuresti, Romania) is the first-choice keeper. He helped lead Panama to 4 clean sheets in WCQs. Roman Torres (Seattle Sounders, USA) and Adolfo Machado (Houston Dynamo, USA) control the center of defense.
Alberto Quintero (Universitario, Peru) and Anibal Godoy (SJ Earthquakes, USA) are the main wingers for Panama. Quintero has 13 goals for his club team this year, however they have not been clicking for Panama, only recording 2 assists and 0 goals for Panama. Scoring goals is the biggest problem for Panama, with their highest scorer having 3 goals ad heir next highest being a CB.
Up top, Gabriel Torres (Lausanne Sport, Switzerland) is the team’s leading scorer with 3. He rarely gets chances with his club team, starting only 3 times and not scoring a single goal. He will pair up with “El Raton” Blas Perez (Municipal, Honduras), who only has one goal for Panama a 5 for his club team. Panama will have difficulty breaking down some of the defenses in this group. If you can’t score, you can’t win. They will finish last in the group.