FIFA World Cup 2018: Stakes high for England, Belgium in easy draw
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FIFA World Cup 2018: Stakes high for England, Belgium in easy draw

Belgium and England -- are certainly favoured to make the round of 16 in the FIFA World Cup 2018 as both sides aim to make an impact in the tournament.

football Updated: Jun 11, 2018 11:24 IST
Sarthak Bal
Sarthak Bal
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
FIFA World Cup 2018,2018 FIFA World Cup,Belgium football team
Kevin de Bruyne is the talisman for the Belgium team and with the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Vincent Kompany, the team are looking in good shape in the FIFA World Cup 2018.(AP)

The dark horse, the perennial underachievers, the new comers and an inspired African side constitute World Cup 2018’s Group G. The first two --Belgium and England -- are certainly favoured to make the round of 16 as opposed to Panama and Tunisia, but the manner in which they do it, if they can do it, could catalyse or curtail their eventual progress.

For Belgium’s golden generation, boasting the Premier League’s finest talent among others, Russia 2018 may be the last shot at realising their potential. Their qualifying campaign saw them score 43 goals, win nine of their 10 games and Romelu Lukaku become the country’s all-time leading scorer with 34 goals.

But their last few friendlies, a 3-3 draw against Mexico last year and a barren stalemate against a Cristiano Ronaldo-less Portugal, will be a reality check.

Qualified 14 times.
Best: Champions
Qualifying route: Winners of Group F in UEFA qualifiers (W8D2L0)
Head coach
(L-R) Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling
GOALKEEPERS: Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope
DEFENDERS: Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Gary Cahill, Trent Alexander-Arnold
MIDFIELDERS: Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard, Jordan Henderson, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Fabian Delph
FORWARDS: Jamie Vardy, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Danny Welbeck
Qualified 12 times.
Best: Semi-finals
Qualifying route: Winners of Group H in UEFA qualifiers (W9D1L0)
Head coach
(L-R) Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku
GOALKEEPERS: Koen Casteels, Thibaut Courtois, Simon Mignolet
DEFENDERS: Toby Alderweireld, Dedryck Boyata, Laurent Ciman (to replace Kompany if unfit), Leander Dendoncker, Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen
MIDFIELDERS: Yannick Carrasco, Nacer Chadli, Kevin De Bruyne, Mousa Dembele, Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj, Youri Tielemans, Axel Witsel, Thomas Meunier
FORWARDS: Michy Batshuayi, Eden Hazard, Thorgan Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens
Qualified four times.
Best: Group stage
1978, 1998,2002, 2006
Qualifying route: Rd 1 bye, Rd 2 Bt Mauritania 4-2 on aggr; Rd 3 1st Gr A (W4D2L0)
Head coach
(L-R) Fakhreddine Ben, Ali Maaloul, Naim Sliti
GOALKEEPERS: Aymen Mathlouthi, Farouk Ben Mustapha, Mouez Hassen
DEFENDERS: Hamdi Nagguez, Dylan Bronn, Rami Bedoui, Yohan Benalouane, Syam Ben Youssef, Yassine Meriah, Oussama Haddadi, Ali Maaloul
MIDFIELDERS: Ellyes Skhiri, Mohamed Amine Ben Amor, Ghaylene Chalali, Ferjani Sassi, Ahmed Khalil, Saifeddine El Khaoui
FORWARDS: Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, Anice Badri, Bassem Srarfi, Wahbi Khazri, Naim Sliti, Saber Khalifa
Qualified for the first time in 2018
Qualifying route: Bye to Rd 4; 2nd in CONCACAF Rd 4 (W3D1L2); 3rd in Rd 5 (W3D4L3)
Head coach
(L-R) Gabriel Gomez, Jaime Penedo, Roman Torres
GOALKEEPERS: Jaime Penedo, Jose Calderon, Alex Rodriguez
DEFENDERS: Felipe Baloy, Harold Cummings, Eric Davis, Fidel Escobar, Adolfo Machado, Michael Amir Murillo, Luis Ovalle, Roman Torres
MIDFIELDERS: Edgar Barcenas, Armando Cooper, Anibal Godoy, Gabriel Gomez, Valentin Pimentel, Jose Luis Rodriguez, Ricardo Avila
FORWARDS: Abdiel Arroyo, Ismael Diaz, Blas Perez, Luis Tejada, Gabriel Torres
Photos: AFP/Reuters/GettyImages | Graphics: HITESH MATHUR

Kevin De Bruyne, the Premiership’s top creator and a champion, seems to have taken up an unassuming leader’s role. Belgium’s major issues though, remain in the defence. And despite the likes of Vincent Kompany --- now injured --- Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld playing, coach Martinez’s inability to organise the backline could lead to their downfall.

Under Gareth Southgate’s tutelage, England have lost only two of their World Cup preliminaries. Playing in a more experimental 3-4-2-1 formation, they boast of a new-look and youthful squad. Their most experienced players come in the form of Gary Cahill (32), Manchester United’s Ashley Young (32) and Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy (31). But eventually, all hopes will rest on Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling.

For Panama, their first World Cup campaign is likely to be a learning experience. But if the Central Americans are to cause a stir, they will look to midfielder Gabriel Gomez for creativity.

Tunisia make a return to the World Cup after a 12-year absence. A turbulent start to their qualification campaign saw coach Nabil Maaloul take over in April last year. For a country looking to register its second victory in the World Cup, it fits to have a coach whose philosophy stresses on attack. But with important players such as Youssef Msakni and Taha Yassine Khenissi missing out due to injury, it will be an uphill task.

First Published: Jun 11, 2018 10:26 IST