Tunisia and Panama are the 30th and 31st biggest price to win the World Cup so England could not have had an easier draw. Belgium are the fourth team in Group G and the match with England should decide who wins the group. England will probably play Senegal or Poland in the round of the last 16 which is a winnable tie. If England progress their opponents in the quarter-finals could be Germany. The last 8 is the favourite in the England stage of elimination betting.
England have not won their first match in a tournament since beating Paraguay at the 2006 World Cup. They have struggled against so called inferior opposition and paid for not winning the group with tough opponents in the last 16 or quarter-finals. The route to the final in the knockout stages begins with a match that England can win but Germany await in the next round. England have been involved in three penalty shootouts in the World Cup and lost the lot. However, they must finish in the top two in the Group first.
If England finish below Tunisia or Panama in Group G it would be a bigger embarrassment than losing to Iceland at Euro 2016. On world rankings and odds these are matches England must win and by a few goals. The opening two fixtures give England a great opportunity to score some goals and build momentum and confidence. The last thing they need is to drop points which makes the meeting with Belgium a must win match. The third game should decide the group winners and opponents in the next round. A win against Belgium would make a statement.
England played Italy and Uruguay in their opening two group fixtures in Brazil in 2014 and did not pick up a point. They were out of the competition after eight days and all the excitement and optimism disappeared. The turgid goalless draw against Costa Rica was irrelevant for England but their opponents did enough to win the group as the outsider of four. England are second favourites to win their section this time but it would be a boost to pick up maximum points.
There is a general lack of quality in the Panama and Tunisia squads. Panama’s main tactic is long throws into the box and England were caught out by Iceland in this way. Panama are a physical side and protecting their goal will be the objective. Several Tunisia squad members play in France’s Ligue 1 and the domestic league is one of the strongest in Africa. Tunisia will be a tougher nut to crack than Panama but anything less than six points would not be good enough even if England are not out.
Belgium have 10 Premier League players in their squad and only one of their 23 plays in the Belgian League. Any team that can call upon Eden Hazard’s dribbling and Kevin de Bruyne’s passing must have a chance. The so called golden generation has not yet fulfilled their potential and they are now all getting on but still in their prime. The team can be unbalanced and the coach, Roberto Martinez, is unproven as an international boss. Despite the obvious threats England can beat Belgium.
England send a relatively young squad to the World Cup. Gary Cahill has played most internationals and he has 59 caps. The three goalkeepers have played for England 10 times in total and the midfield lacks creativity. However, the front players can compensate for many shortcomings elsewhere. England can win Group G and then the real fun will begin because matches could go to penalties.