2018 FIFA World Cup – Group G Preview & Betting Tips

The following is a team-by-team preview of Group G in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Futures betting tips are also provided. The group contains Belgium, Panama, Tunisia and England.

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Other group previews:

 

Belgium

Belgium

  • FIFA World Ranking (as of June 7): 3
  • Rank by Elo rating (as of June 11): 8
  • Squad:
    • Coach: Roberto Martínez (Spain)
    • Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Koen Casteels (VfL Wolfsburg)
    • Defenders: Toby Alderweireld Tottenham), Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona), Thomas Meunier (PSG)
    • Midfielders: Youri Tielemans (AS Monaco), Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian), Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham), Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Monchengladbach), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Nacer Chadli (West Brom)
    • Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid)
  • Best World Cup performance: Fourth place (1986)
  • 2014 World Cup: 1st in the group stage, knocked out in the quarter-finals
  • 2010 World Cup: Absent
  • Qualifying: Won Group H with a 9-1-0 record in the UEFA Confederation qualification.
  • Bookmaker odds: (sourced from bet365)
    • Win group: 1.83
    • Reach knockouts: 1.083
    • Fail to reach knockouts: 9.00
    • Win World Cup: 12.00
  • Analyst predictions: :
    • Shaka Hilsop (ESPN): 2nd in the group, knocked out in the quarter-finals
    • Craig Burley (ESPN): 1st in the group, knocked out in the quarter-finals
    • Paul Mariner (ESPN): 2nd in the group, knocked out in the Round of 16
    • Tom Carnduff (SportingLife): 1st in the group, knocked out in the quarter-finals
    • SBNATION: 1st in the group
    • AccuScore win group probability: 63%
    • AccuScore qualify from group probability: 89.6%
  • Good News:
    • Dominated their qualifying group, going 9-1-0 and scoring 43 goals.
    • Boast a high quality squad, which is the best in Belgian history.
    • The side has a good amount of experience, with an average of over 40 caps per player.
    • Unbeaten 2018 friendlies and conceded just 1 goal in those 4 games, whilst scoring 11 times.
    • Have a much stronger goal scoring record of late than England (+37 goal difference in qualifying compared to +15 for England) so if both sides finish on equal points it’s likely that Belgium would finish higher based on goal difference.
    • Belgium and England play each other in their final group fixture, by which time both sides might have the luxury of knowing they’ve already qualified for the Round of 16.
    • The 1st and 2nd best teams from this Group play the 2nd and 1st from Group H, which on paper doesn’t look to be strong.
  • Bad News:
    • Failed to meet expectations at the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016, raising questions of whether the side has the mental ability to win a major tournament.
    • Centre back Vincent Kompany injured his groin during a pre-tournament friendly.
    • There are plenty of coaches in the tournament with stronger CVs than coach Roberto Martinez, whose tactics have been criticised by the Belgian media.

 
Panama

Panama

  • FIFA World Ranking (as of June 7): 55
  • Rank by Elo rating (as of June 11): 48
  • Squad:
    • Coach: Hernán Darío Gómez (Colombia)
    • Goalkeepers: Jamie Penedo (Diname Bucharest), Jose Calderon (Chorrillo FC), Alex Rodriguez (San Francisco FC)
    • Defenders: Harold Cummings (San Jose Earthquakes), Fidel Escobar (New York Red Bulls), Eric Davis (DAC Dunajska Streda), Felipe Baloy (CSD Munbicipal), Adolfo Machado (Houston Dynamo), Michael Murillo (New York Red Bulls), Luis Ovalle (Olimpia), Roman Torres (Seattle Sounders)
    • Midfielders: Edgar Barcenas (Cafetaleros de Tapachula), Armando Cooper (Universidad de Chile), Anibal Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes), Gabriel Gomez (Atletico Bucaramanga), Valentin Pimentel (Plaza Amador), Alberto Quintero (Universitario), Jose Luis Rodriguez (Ghent)
    • Forwards: Abdiel Arroyo (Alajuelense), Ismael Diaz (Deportivo La Coruna), Blas Pérez (Municipal), Luis Tejada (Sport Boys), Gabriel Torres (Huachipato)
  • Best World Cup performance: N/A
  • 2014 World Cup: Absent
  • 2010 World Cup: Absent
  • Qualifying: Third place in the CONCACAF Fifth Round with a 3-4-3 record.
  • Bookmaker odds: (sourced from bet365)
    • Win group: 41.00
    • Reach knockouts: 10.00
    • Fail to reach knockouts: 1.071
    • Win World Cup: 1001.00
  • Analyst predictions: :
    • Shaka Hilsop (ESPN): 4th in the group
    • Craig Burley (ESPN): 4th in the group
    • Paul Mariner (ESPN): 4th in the group
    • Tom Carnduff (SportingLife): 4th in the group
    • SBNATION: 4th in the group
    • AccuScore win group probability: 3%
    • AccuScore qualify from group probability: 15%
  • Good News:
    • As the clear underdogs in the group, have no burden of expectation.
    • Have an experienced squad, with eleven players having over 50 caps and six players having over 100 caps.
  • Bad News:
    • The only team to reach the World Cup with a negative goal difference during the final round of qualifying.
    • Have no World Cup finals experience.
    • The clear minnow of the group with a world ranking of 55 compared to 21 for Tunisia.
    • Of the seven CONCACAF teams to debut at the World Cup since 1970, only one made it to the Round of 16 (Costa Rica in 1990).
    • Had poor results in their 2018 friendlies, during which they scored just 1 goal in 5 games.

 
Tunisia

Tunisia

  • FIFA World Ranking (as of June 7): 21
  • Rank by Elo rating (as of June 11): 49
  • Squad:
    • Coach: Nabil Maâloul
    • Goalkeepers: Aymen Mathlouthi (Al Batin Saoudi/KSA), Farouk Ben Mustapha (Al Shabab Saoudi/KSA), Mouez Hassen (Chateauroux/FRA)
    • Defenders: Hamdi Nagguez (Zamalek/EGY), Dylan Bronn (Ghent/BEL), Rami Bedoui (Etoile Sportive du Sahel), Yohan Benalouane (Leicester/ENG), Syam Ben Youssef (Kasimpasa/TUR), Yassine Meriah (Club Sportif Sfax), Oussama Haddadi (Dijon/FRA), Ali Maaloul (Al Ahli/EGY)
    • Midfielders: Ellyes Skhiri (Montpellier/FRA), Mohamed Amine Ben Amor (Al Ahly/KSA), Ghaylene Chalali (Esperance Tunis), Ferjani Sassi (Al Nasr Saoudi/KSA), Ahmed Khalil (Club Africain), Saifeddine El Khaoui (Troyes/FRA)
    • Forwards: Fakhreddine Ben Youssef (Al Ittifak/KSA), Anice Badri (Esperance), Bassem Srarfi (Nice/FRA), Wahbi Khazri (Rennes/FRA), Naim Sliti (Dijon/FRA), Saber Khalifa (Club Africain)
  • Best World Cup performance: Group stage (1978, 1998, 2002, 2006)
  • 2014 World Cup: Absent
  • 2010 World Cup: Absent
  • Qualifying: Won Group A with a 4-2-0 record in the CAF Third Round.
  • Bookmaker odds: (sourced from bet365)
    • Win group: 13.00
    • Reach knockouts: 5.00
    • Fail to reach knockouts: 1.16
    • Win World Cup: 751.00
  • Analyst predictions: :
    • Shaka Hilsop (ESPN): 3rd in the group
    • Craig Burley (ESPN): 3rd in the group
    • Paul Mariner (ESPN): 3rd in the group
    • Tom Carnduff (SportingLife): 3rd in the group
    • SBNATION: 3rd in the group
    • AccuScore win group probability: 4.7%
    • AccuScore qualify from group probability: 21.7%
  • Good News:
    • Since Nabil Maâloul’s appointment as head coach in 2017 the side has gone 5-4-1. Their sole defeat was 1-0 to Spain, who took 84 minutes to unlock their defence. In May they drew Portugal 2-2.
    • Attacking midfielder Wahbi Khazri has picked up in form since being loaned by Sunderland to Rennes, where he scored 11 goals in 29 appearances.
  • Bad News:
    • Despite being officially ranked 21st in the world, Tunisia are only the 49th best when using Elo ratings, while Belgium and England are 8th and 7th, respectively.
    • Creative midfielder and talisman Youssef Msakni, their star player, will miss the tournament due to injury. He was their main attacking asset.
    • A number of other players are fighting to regain fitness after picking up injuries prior to the tournament.

 
England

England

  • FIFA World Ranking (as of June 7): 12
  • Rank by Elo rating (as of June 11): 7
  • Squad:
    • Coach: Gareth Southgate
    • Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Jack Butland (Stoke City), Nick Pope (Burnley)
    • Defenders: Kyle Walker (Manchester City), John Stones (Manchester City), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Ashley Young (Manchester United), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham)
    • Midfielders: Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Dele Alli (Tottenham), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Crystal Palace), Fabian Delph (Manchester City)
    • Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
  • Best World Cup performance: Winners (1966)
  • 2014 World Cup: 4th in the group stage
  • 2010 World Cup: 2nd in the group stage, knocked out in the Round of 16
  • Qualifying: Won Group F with an 8-2-0 record in the UEFA Confederation qualification.
  • Bookmaker odds: (sourced from bet365)
    • Win group: 2.20
    • Reach knockouts: 1.12
    • Fail to reach knockouts: 6.00
    • Win World Cup: 17.00
  • Analyst predictions: :
    • Shaka Hilsop (ESPN): 1st in the group, knocked out in the Round of 16
    • Craig Burley (ESPN): 2nd in the group, knocked out in the quarter-finals
    • Paul Mariner (ESPN): 1st in the group, knocked out in the quarter-finals
    • Tom Carnduff (SportingLife): 2nd in the group, knocked out in the quarter-finals
    • SBNATION: 2nd in the group
    • AccuScore win group probability: 29.3%
    • AccuScore qualify from group probability: 73.7%
  • Good News:
    • Dominated their qualifying group by going undefeated in 10 games and keeping 8 clean sheets.
    • Unbeaten in 14 games since Euro 2016, with an 11-3-0 record.
    • Head coach Gareth Southgate has picked a youthful squad based more on form than reputation.
    • Don’t have the same burden of expectation this tournament due to poor performances in the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016.
    • Striker Harry Kane has been in scintillating form this season, scoring 41 goals in 48 appearances for Tottenham, which is a career high. He’s been particularly prolific in tournaments, scoring 4 goals in 4 FA Cup fixtures and 7 goals in 7 UEFA Champions League appearances. Kane has been equally impressive for England, scoring 8 goals in 7 games since 2017. In contrast, during England’s disappointing 2016 season, he scored just 2 goals in 9 appearances.
    • The entire squad is sourced from the English Premier League, which features some of the best managers in the world. This has helped to further develop a number of England’s key players.
    • Belgium and England play each other in their final group fixture, by which time both sides might have the luxury of knowing they’ve already qualified for the Round of 16.
    • The 1st and 2nd best teams from this Group play the 2nd and 1st from Group H, which on paper doesn’t look to be strong.
  • Bad News:
    • Possibly lack the level of creativity in midfield required to go deep in the tournament.
    • Like Belgium, England are led by a manager who doesn’t boast an awful lot of managerial experience.
    • Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will miss the tournament due to injury.

 

Betting tips:

On paper Belgium and England should get through this group, although Tunisia might prove hard to break down for England, which might cost them top spot. Regardless of whether England finish 1st or 2nd, I expect their tournament will come to an end at the quarter-finals stage. They will likely face Brazil if they win the group and Germany if they finish second. Either way, I expect them to bow out of the tournament in the quarter-finals, which wouldn’t be a disaster given England’s muted expectations.

Back Belgium to win Group G at 1.83 (bet365)

Back England to be eliminated in the quarter-finals at 3.20 (Unibet)

 

Notes

 

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