All the experts are calling for Belgium and England to come out of this group. The two teams are close to even odds to win the group and this is largely seen as a situation that is 1A and 1B.
Tunisia and Panama will be looking to play spoiler. Both teams are considered major longshots to come out of this group, but one of the beautiful things about the World Cup is the chaos that is the Group Stage. All it takes is one fluke goal or unexpected result to set up a scenario that no one expected.
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There is already plenty of buzz about Belgium coming into the World Cup. The Belgians were able to make it to the Quarterfinals of the last World Cup and the last European Championship and have the talent to go even further.
Belgium is in the middle of a golden era. Almost all of their talent is in the prime of their career, making this team one of the ones to really keep an eye on. They dominated their competition in qualifying and have looked sharp in their last few qualifiers too.
Eden Hazard is the leader of the team and will be the main playmaker too. He has been one of the most gifted playmakers in the Premier League as part of Chelsea and is going to have plenty of players to get the ball too. Romelu Lukaku has proven to be a great finisher and Michy Batshuayi is an up and coming star.
Although there have been concerns about the team’s back line, the talent is obviously there. A speedy wing may give them a bit of trouble, but this team has a lot of experience in defense and a solid goalkeeper.
If England cannot get out of this group, the press is sure to go mad. The Three Lions have not been very successful at their last two international tournaments, failing to get out of the Group Stage at the 2014 World Cup and losing to Iceland in the Round of 16 at the 2016 Euros. A third failure would lead to apoplectic headlines and a major shakeup.
It looks like Harry Kane is healthy again which is a huge relief to England. Kane is going to be the centerpiece of the attack and the one player that this team can definitely rely on to score goals. Without him, the team would be in desperate need of an elite finisher.
There is a major question about who will be in net for England though. Joe Hart was the team’s first-choice for a number of years, but his form has really taken a dive over the last year and it looks like Gareth Southgate will replace him. Jordan Pickford or Jack Butland will likely wear the No. 1 for England as a result, but neither player has a ton of experience.
Whoever gets the nod will have less than 10 career caps for the national team.
Tunisia is back at the World Cup for the first time in 12 years and is looking for its first win on this stage in four decades. Tunisia has finished 0-1-2 in each of their last three appearances, but they will be on the attack more than in years past.
The strength of Tunisia is in the midfield. Wahbi Khazri is the team’s leader and he will be flanked by some sure tacklers that will challenge opponents for possession. This team plays a physical brand of soccer that could prove to fluster the two favorites.
This will be Panama’s first ever trip to the World Cup. Panama was able to sneak in over the United States after a win over Costa Rica on the last day of CONCACAF qualifying, sending American soccer fans into disarray.
Panama is going to have a hard time in this group. The team is one of the oldest at the tournament with six players with over 100 caps likely to make the final cut. That gives them experience, but there are concerns about how they will perform late in matches, especially if they have to press.
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Belgium is going to win the group and England should come in second unless the goalkeeping turns out to be a disaster.
2018 FIFA World Cup Teams to Advance: Belgium and England
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