Belgium are many people’s favourites to top Group G, but England will definitely fancy their chances of finishing above them.
This is Panama’s first ever World Cup appearance and they qualified in dramatic fashion, beating Honduras to qualification on goal difference. Even a point for them in this group will be a massive achievement.
The surprise package in this group could be Tunisia. The North African side are 14th in the FIFA World Rankings, only one place behind group rivals England, so don’t write them off from making it through to the knockout stages.
England should progress but as history shows, anything is possible with England. The Three Lions finished bottom of their group in the 2014 tournament with only one point and as always, returned home with unfulfilled expectations.
However, this year, there seems to be less expectation about what this young squad can achieve and who knows, it could end up helping the players.
Here are the key players to look out for in this group.
Belgium – Dries Mertens
The Napoli forward was the driving factor in his side’s Serie A title push this season. His 18 league goals meant Juventus were given one of their toughest title battles in recent years.
Mertens’ speed, dribbling and finishing instinct means he can operate anywhere along the front-line, with Martinez expected to play him on the wing.
With the depth of talent in the Belgium squad, Mertens could find himself fighting for a starting position but one thing for sure, when he is on the pitch, he will always provide a creative spark for his side.
Also look out for Chelsea star Eden Hazard, who will be hoping to get the better of many of his fellow Premier League counterparts in this group.
Panama – Gabriel Torres
The quick striker was Panama’s joint top goal scorer during qualification with two goals, but it is his all-round game that is so valuable to his nation.
The 29-year-old provides much needed pace in attack and allows his side to counter at lightning speed. He made his international debut at the age of 16 and has been a constant figure ever since.
The nation will look to him to provide some moments of magic in their first ever world cup appearance. He netted nine times in 15 appearances for Chilean side Club Deportivo Huachipato and will want to translate that form onto the biggest stage.
Tunisia – Wahbi Khazri
The wide-man is Tunisia’s source of strength and can fire his side into the knockout stages for the first time in their history. His time in England with Sunderland wasn’t the best, but his trickery and set-piece quality was obvious.
He’s enjoyed a very fruitful loan spell with French side Rennes, where he found the back of the net nine times this season.
With star striker Youssef Msakni ruled out of the tournament with injury, it’s hard to see Tunisia lighting up the world with entertaining attacking football, but Khazri could be the key to unlock some rigid defences.
England – Harry Kane
The Tottenham striker was in prolific form once again this season, netting 30 times in the Premier League.
The 24-year-old will be England’s captain in Russia and it’s fair to say the pressure of providing goals rests on his shoulders. Kane has found the net in every game he has captained his nation in.
Kane is an absolute handful for defenders. His aerial ability, finishing instinct and intricate link-up play means he is one of the most feared strikers in world football.
It will be interesting to see him come up against fellow Spurs player Jan Vertonghen when England face Belgium in what could be a decisive game in this group.
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