Tunisia vs England – Group G – Volgograd Arena, Volgograd – June 18
England will expect to emerge from their opening game of the Group G cluster with Tunisia without a hitch at Volgograd on June 18. The Three Lions will be hoping to improve on the disastrous show they put up in WC 2014 Brazil, where they were eliminated in the Group phase, not having won a single match. The English side to Russia look much more promising with players like Raheem Sterling of Manchester City, Marcus Rashford of Manchester United, Del Alli and Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur in crying form. Manager Gareth Southgate has chosen safety over offence, a tactic that has borne fruit. England conceded just three goals in their WC 2018 qualification campaign and have remained unbeaten in all the last 8 international friendlies they have played. But with the attacking choices England have in the form of Kane, Alli, Rashford& Sterling, the team may have under-performed as far as goal scoring is concerned. The Three Lions managed just 18 goals from their 10 qualification games with only Iceland having scored less. While defense will be of paramount importance, getting goals will be the key to England’s progression in Russia. That’s why they will rely heavily on someone like Harry Kane to strike top form. Southgate may start off Monday’s game with folks like Kyle Walker, Phil Jones, Kieran Trippier and the fresh new talent, 20-year old Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold at the back. For the goal-keeper’s spot it could be a toss between Jordan Pickford of Everton and Jack Butland of Stoke City.
Underdogs Tunisia are not short of confidence going into the June 18 game. They have lost just one game after having been unbeaten in a run of 7 outings. The lost game was a narrow 0-1 to mighty Spain, one of the favorites to win Russia 2018. Tunisia have come out well in low-scoring affairs which is why it is important that the English get a couple of goals at least. The Tunisians do not have too many big names on their roster, the only recognizable names being Leicester City defender Yohan Benalouane and former Sunderland mid-fielder WahbiKhazri, but possess oodles of determination. Recent draws of 2-2 against Turkey and European champions Portugal are a case in point. They booked their berth to World Cup from the African Zone with ease, emerging Top of their Group with 14 points (the only other team to have garnered that many points were Senegal).
Winner of 1966 World Cup, England missed out on 1974 and 1978 editions of the football’s premier tournament. The Three Lions, though, have made it to every World Cup since 1982 but haven’t been able to progress beyond the quarter-final stage. Tunisia qualified for their first World Cup as an independent nation in 1978. But after a 20-year drought they were seen in action in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Cups. Having missed out again in the 2010 and 2014 editions the North African nation are back once more on to the world stage.
Odds definitely favor England to win the Volgograd clash, but Tunisia are a tough nut to crack, too.
England to win to Nil, Best Odds 21/20 @ BetVictor