World Cup Group G Preview: Key stats, info and odds
Dave Burin | 12 June 2018
Belgium and England the favourites to progress
It’s just a few days until the World Cup begins, and the Coral News Team are back with another preview – this time on Group G.
England and Belgium are amongst the dark horses in Russia, while Tunisia and first-timers Panama are looking to upset the apple cart.
Manager: Things have gone well so far for Gareth Southgate. England topped their qualification group by eight points. But the former Middlesbrough boss is in uncharted territory at a World Cup.
Best WC result: The Three Lions lifted the trophy on home soil, back in 1966. Their best performance outside of England was a semi-final berth at Italia ’90.
How they play: England played a 4-2-3-1 system for most of qualifying, but have been experimenting with three at the back in the recent friendlies.
One to watch: After an underwhelming Euros, this could be Harry Kane’s time to shine. The Tottenham hitman hit a stunning 41 goals in 2017-18.
Things to consider: England dispatched the lesser sides ruthlessly in qualifying, and should be too strong for Panama and Tunisia. However, they almost always fall short against the bigger sides – so matchday three against Belgium could be tough.
One thing the Three Lions have in abundance is pace and creativity coming forward. The likes of Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling out wide could prove vital.
Manager: Roberto Martinez is well-known on these shores, but took the Red Devils’ job on the back of a difficult stint at Everton. It’s gone well so far with Belgium though – they’ve won 13 of his 19 games in charge, losing just once.
Best WC result: Under legendary boss Guy Thys, Belgium reached the semi-finals at Mexico ’86, beating Spain along the way.
How they play: Tactically, Belgium are as consistent as they come. It’s virtually always a 3-4-2-1 set-up, with Dries Mertens and Eden Hazard sat behind Romelu Lukaku.
One to watch: There’s no shortage of big names, but Lukaku is likely to be the main man. The Manchester United ace has scored 11 times in his last eight international outings.
Things to consider: Belgium’s big issue at recent tournaments is that they haven’t looked as good as the sum of their parts. Euro 2016 was a classic example, with a disorganised and wasteful side losing 3-1 to Wales in the quarter-finals.
The task Martinez has is to get the most out of the wealth of talent in this squad. They breezed to World Cup qualification in an easy group, but this is the real test.
Manager: Boss Hernan Dario Gomez is one of only four managers in history to lead three different teams to a World Cup. The 62-year-old was in charge of Colombia in 1998 and Ecuador in 2002.
Best WC result: Panama are just one of two first-timers at this summer’s World Cup, along with Iceland.
How they play: Los Canaleros tend to line up in a 4-4-2, with Gabriel Torres and veteran striker Blas Perez up top.
One to watch: Young right-back Michael Amir Murillo has impressed with New York Red Bulls, and the national side. He offers some much needed pace in an ageing squad.
Things to consider: Panama’s status as first-timers could be a help or a hindrance. Opponents don’t know much about them, but there’s also a question as to how they’ll handle the big stage.
One big issue is the age of the squad. Five of the players are at least 32-years-old, so they could tire as the group stage goes on.
Manager: Head Coach Nabil Maaloul is in his second stint as national team boss, following a brief and undistinguished stint in 2013. However, he’s had some success with homeland club ES Tunis.
Best WC result: The Eagles of Carthage have made it to four previous World Cups – most recently in 2006 – but are yet to make it past the group stage.
How they play: Maaloul tends to mix things up a fair bit, but they tend to operate in a 4-3-2-1 system. Syam Ben Youssef and Yassine Meriah are the usual centre-back pairing.
One to watch: Wahbi Khazri heads into this tournament on the back of a productive loan spell with Rennes, and offers a genuine goal threat from midfield. He’s scored 12 times in 36 Tunisia game.
Things to consider: Tunisia aren’t a bad side. They’ve got a reliable keeper, a solid defence and a creative midfield. The thing they’re lacking is a decent striker.
Between them, Tunisia’s three recognised strikers at this tournament have a combined 15 goals in 93 appearances for the national side. That lack of cutting edge is likely to prove telling in Russia.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing