England are set to take on Tunisia in their World Cup opener on Monday.
Both teams boast plenty of young talent with England being the third-youngest side at the tournament and Tunisia the fourth.
Here’s a look at some of the key players ahead of the Group G-encounter.
Wahbi Khazri v Harry Kane
Wahbi Khazri hasn’t played a match since April when he picked up a thigh injury while playing for Rennes in Ligue 1. However, the 27-year-old has returned to fitness and was on the bench during Tunisia’s final warm-up game against Spain.
The attacking midfielder turned striker should start up front despite his lack of match sharpness and that comes as a boost for his side. Deemed surplus to requirements at Sunderland this season, he was loaned out to Rennes where he scored nine goals playing up front or out wide. His strength, movement and sharp-shooting makes him a huge threat.
Khazri will have to do something special to upstage the striker at the other end though. Harry Kane has enjoyed his best ever season with Tottenham, scoring a remarkable 44 goals across all competitions.
Much is expected of the 24-year-old at this tournament. Not only does he have the added responsibility that comes with the captain’s armband, but he is also considered England’s only true World Class player.
Kane is the perfect number nine, boasting great strength, aerial prowess and outstanding finishing. He’s scored eight times in his last seven appearances for England.
Saif-Eddine Khaoui v Jesse Lingard
Another Tunisian player who has benefitted from a loan move this season is Saif-Eddine Khaoi. He struggled for playing time at Marseille, but excelled during his stint at relegated Ligue 1 outfit Troyes.
Khaoui is known to be a technically gifted player, blessed with quick feet and always looks for the forward pass. The France-born midfielder was only called up to the squad in March.
Jesse Lingard on the other hand, has enjoyed a fine season at Manchester United and comes into the tournament bursting with confidence. A prolific domestic campaign has been complimented by some impressive display for the national team.
Especially since Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was ruled out of the World Cup through injury, Lingard’s energy, pace and speed of thought through the middle has become crucial.
Syam Ben Youssef v John Stones
Syam Ben Youssef doesn’t typically inspire confidence among the Tunisian support but seems to have the backing of the coach.
His career trajectory has been on a gentle climb. Beginning at Esperance Sportive de Tunis, spells at Leyton Orient and Astra Giurgiu preceded a move to Caen and he now features for Kasimpasa in the Turkish Super Lig.
The 29-year-old has been a mainstay in defence for the national team over the years.
John Stones comes highly rated and with good reason. He’s got all the attributes necessary to be the ideal modern centre-back.
He doesn’t come error-free, though. He is susceptible to the odd lapse in concentration but at 24, is still improving.
However, it’s his composure on the ball and distribution that makes him integral to Southgate’s back three.
Defending champions Germany crashed to the first defeat in their opening game of a World Cup since 1982 as Hirving Lozano’s clinical finish earned Mexico a shock 1-0 victory on Sunday.
The highly-rated PSV Eindhoven forward struck the winner on 35 minutes after a blistering counter-attack at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow as Mexico beat Germany for just the second time in history.
Here, we examine the performance of Mexico’s coveted star Lozano.
Lozano is nicknamed ‘Chucky’ (after the movie horror doll) for his rather humorous proclivity to jump out from underneath player’s beds and scare them.
Against Germany, he sprung out of the open space vacated by a naively high-up Joshua Kimmich and terrorised the defending champions.
The 22-year-old was marked out as Mexico’s key threat in the build-up but it appears Joachim Low did not take heed of the PSV Eindhoven talent with the winger deeply impressive off the left wing in a 4-2-3-1.
El Tri were smart in their attacking strategy, not committing too many numbers forward on the counter but then playing off Lozano as he stretched out wide before playing his way into the box.
With more composure, he might have added another goal or an assist to his display.
First touch – In a counter-attacking system, the first touch from the player on the out ball must be pristine. Lozano’s was immaculate, testifying to both his concentration and above all, his confidence.
Acceleration – It’s an obvious statement to make but speed kills and ultimately Lozano’s piercing pace undone Germany. Mexico noticeably dropped deeper when he departed because the ability to spring forward through Lozano was missed.
Burn out – Following on from the above, Lozano was brought off just past the hour mark and appeared fatigued. Carrying out his talent for 90 minutes is absolutely pivotal for Mexico going forward.
Here is the Goal by #22 from Mexico Lozano 🇲🇽 pic.twitter.com/Zx7SL7fAhY— FIFA World Cup (@CopaMundiaI) June 17, 2018
2nd min CHANCE: Mexico are in already and it’s a really nice move on the left. Lozano moves into the inside lane between full-back and centre-back, drops his shoulder and shapes to shoot before Jerome Boateng produces a world-class block for a corner.
25th min TOUCH: A first-touch to melt hearts. Lozano sensually picks out a lofted diagonal ball from the sky, cuts inside but his effort is wide.
34th min GOAL: It’s been coming and the avenue was always going to arrive on Lozano’s left. The German’s attack with numbers, lose the ball and Mexico break at warp speed. Javier Hernandez’s rapid one-two in midfield gives him time to slip the ball out onto a hurtling Lozano and he cuts back inside then fires low to Manuel Neuer’s right.
37th min FOUL: The good and the bad in a matter of minutes. Lozano produces a classic forward’s challenge as he chops down Kimmich just outside the box. Toni Kroos’ delightful free-kick is just tipped onto the bar.
65th min SUB: Juan Carlos Osorio flicks off the light with Lozano substituted for Raul Jimenez.
Everton, Villarreal and Arsenal are all rumoured to be scouting Lozano and the reports from this game will be of a livewire.
The biggest takeaway will be his supreme confidence meshed to blistering speed. His finish was superb and his performance emblematic of this energetic Mexico attack.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com
Germany were stunned in their World Cup opener as Hirving Lozano’s solitary strike condemned them to a 1-0 defeat on Sunday.
The highly-rated winger broke the deadlock in the 35th minute and the defending champions failed to respond.
The team’s problems leading up the tournament were magnified by a below par performance which leaves them in real danger of an early elimination.
Here, we examine some of the fallout from the Group F clash.
Germany came into this tournament as one of the strong favourites but after a first outing, their stock has seriously dropped. The holders are renowned for their supreme structure, efficiency and control. However, all of that went out of the window as soon as Mexico ran at them right from the start.
A double pivot of Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira should have dominated the ball but were left looking leggy against Mexico’s runners from midfield and received no support from Mesut Ozil operating ahead of them. Mats Hummels was well off the pace as well, struggling to deal with a pacey forward line. Javier Hernandez, Carlos Vela and Hirving Lozano ran riot with the latter particularly benefitting from Joshua Kimmich’s advanced role.
The Bayern Munich full-back normally operates further up the pitch, to get involved in the build-up play and whip in dangerous deliveries from the right flank. Juan Carlos Osorio clearly identified that as an opening and Lozano was repeatedly played in down that left side with acres of space to exploit.
Kimmich was caught up the field in the build up to the goal as well, leaving Ozil of all people to chase down the rapid PSV Eindhoven winger. It’s no surprise he cut inside the Arsenal playmaker with ease before drilling his effort in at the near post.
MEXICO NEED FINE-TUNING
El Tri fully deserved the victory over the defending champions. They were the better team, created the better chances and played with more spirit.
They defended for their lives in the final 20 minutes or so, perhaps having run out of steam. They still sat deep and nullified Germany’s creative passers through the middle, who were finally afforded the opportunity to play in a more familiar area, camped in the opposition’s half rather than running back towards their own goal (not very well).
Mexico’s stubborn resistance in the closing stages meant Joachim Low’s side were instead forced to resort to an endless series of crosses into the box despite lacking in genuine width. Jerome Boateng crossing the ball in for Kimmich to attempt an audacious bicycle-kick spoke volumes of their desperation.
However, the Mexicans should never have been under that much pressure to begin with. They had several glorious opportunities to double and triple their advantage. When the dust settles and celebrations die down, they will have to take a good hard look at themselves.
Osorio’s men impressively played out from the back and then fired direct balls into the front three or had one of their midfielders break through the lines and run at the defence. The final ball was consistently lacking though and they spurned chance after chance, often waiting too long to release a team-mate into space. A little fine-tuning and Mexico could become a real counter-attacking force to reckon with.
LOW’S SELECTION IN QUESTION
With the Germans throwing numbers forward in the second half, a real impact player off the bench could’ve done them a world of good. Someone with searing pace, a rifle of a shot and the ability to hug the touchline to provide genuine width to stretch place was the order of the day.
However, Low controversially chose to leave Leroy Sane out of his final squad and in the very first game of the competition, that decision has come into question again.
Having led Die Mannschaft for over 12 years now, he’s developed a relationship with several players and values a sense of loyalty in that dynamic. That’s why it could be argued that even Khedira’s starting berth had more to do with stability and continuity than recent form. Ilkay Gundogan for example would’ve offered far more in terms of pace, creativity and distribution from the middle of the park.
Finally, Manuel Neuer swooping in and resuming as number one after being injured throughout the season raised eyebrows in the weeks leading up the tournament.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen enjoyed a fine season at Barcelona but had to step aside. The Bayern goalkeeper didn’t do too much wrong on the day but was beaten at his near post.
Granted, Lozano’s effort was well struck and relatively close in proximity but a world class keeper on top of his game probably gets something on it.