Soccer

Previews for all eight World Cup groups – Group G

The Belgian waffles versus the English muffins for Group G glory.

Welcome to What The Sports’ FIFA World Cup Previews! We are just two days away from the most-watched sporting event in the world, and will countdown to June 14’s opening match with a preview of each group per day.

Can we just take a second to realize we’re two days away from the World Cup?! Absolutely giddy writing this preview right now.

Group G! This group probably contains the most drastic drop-off in talent from the top two teams to the bottom two teams. A Grand Canyon-sized gap between Belgium and England and Tunisia and Panama. That being said, the meeting between England and Belgium on June 28 in Kaliningrad will surely be one of the most entertaining matches of the entire group stage. The two teams are World Cup champion hopefuls as well, with some of the Premier League’s top talents on display.

Tunisia

I am literally just now discovering where Tunisia is. I had no clue. It is a Northern African nation, whose capital is the city of Tunis. The country borders both the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert, and has a population of just over 11 million people, which is less than Moscow. All of this information I have received from Wikipedia.

This is Tunisia’s first trip back to the World Cup since Germany in 2006, and the nation will look to advance out of the group stage for the first time in its history. They will be welcomed back to the international competition with back-to-back matches against versus Belgium and England.

Who to watch

Wahbi Khazri

The Sunderland man spent the past season in France on loan with Ligue 1 side Rennes, scoring 11 goals in 28 appearances. He will probably be slotted as a striker for this Tunisian side, and will definitely be their biggest goal scoring threat.

Here’s a rocket he scored against Chelsea in 2016.

They win the gro-

No.

Most likely to be meme-d

I’m not going to pretend like I know enough about this team to tell you somebody who is going to get meme-d.

Panama

After finishing in third place in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, Los Canaleros are playing in their first World Cup in the country’s history. The team comes to Russia after a scoreless draw versus Northern Ireland and a 1-0 loss to Norway in pre-World Cup friendlies, two teams who were unable to qualify for the tournament.

Looking at this team and Tunisia, how did the U.S. not qualify for the World Cup?

Who to watch

Román Torres

The Seattle Sounders defenseman is the anchor to the Panamanian back four, and is an absolute nightmare for opposing attackers. He also has scored the biggest goal in Panama’s soccer history, his game winner against Costa Rica back in November clinched his country a World Cup berth (and also effectively eliminated the United States from the competition).

They win the group if…

Panama President Juan Carlos Varela threatens to shut down the Panama Canal for all English, Belgian and Tunisian freight liners if their soccer teams beat Panama, and that that threat forces those three teams to all lose to Panama.

Most likely to be meme-d

José Calderón

The Panamanian third-choice goalkeeper is not also the Cleveland Cavaliers bench player, but LeBron James could probably carry him to an NBA Finals as well.

England

After failing to advance past the group stage in Brazil, England comes to Russia with a very, very, very, very, very, very, very generous draw. Yes, Belgium is tough, but it would shock the soccer world if the Three Lions failed to make it to the knockout round for the second World Cup in a row. Many of the old heads of English soccer are gone (Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney, Hart, Baines), so for the less-than-casual soccer fan, there are probably some unfamiliar faces that will star for this team over the next couple of weeks. Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, John Stones, Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard are just some of the names.

Who to watch

Harry Kane

The star striker is a goalscoring machine, undoubtedly one of the best in the world. He’s scored more than 20 goals the past four Premier League seasons, racking up 30 in 37 appearances last season. He has also scored 13 goals in 24 international appearances.

The man is a beast, an old-school styled striker who plays just like your ideal No. 9 striker should: capable of scoring with both feet, more than competent in the air and good with hold-up play.

They win the group if…

Simply put, they beat Belgium and don’t choke against Panama or Tunisia.

The only question marks with this team is how legitimate their No. 1 goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, is and how cohesive can manager Gareth Southgate’s three-man defensive line play, especially with Kyle Walker, a wing back, sliding into a more central role. Despite that, the scoring capabilities of Kane and Raheem Sterling coupled with the midfield talent of Jordan Henderson and Dele Alli is more than enough to see England through to the knockout stage.

Most likely to be meme-d

Raheem Sterling

I know I just wrote a few lines above about Mr. Sterling’s goalscoring capabilities, but he’s prone to a few, what they call across the pond, “howlers,” as well.

I am a Manchester City fan, and Raheem is one of my favorite athletes in all of sports, but man oh man can he give you a few grey hairs sometimes.

Belgium

Oddsmakers have Belgium as the favorite to win Group G, and it’s pretty easy to see why people love The Red Devils. With world-class players throughout the roster, who have way north of 50 caps, Belgium is bringing to Russia both a talented and experienced squad to Russia. You should be familiar with a lot of the names: Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany and Axel Witsel headline the group.

Former Everton manager Roberto Martinez leads the No. 3 ranked team in the world, he will deploy somewhat of a 3-4-3/3-4-2-1 formation with Hazard, Lukaku and Dries Mertens up top. This is a sexy pick to win the World Cup, but probably won’t be picked as often as Brazil, France or Germany due to their inability to progress pass the quarterfinals in 2014 and at the 2016 Euros.

Who to watch

Kevin De Bruyne

This could have easily been Hazard or Lukaku, but De Bruyne will be expected to feed the attack and set-up goals for the two. KDB led the Premier League in assists this season with 16, and tallied 21 in all competitions for Manchester City. I will contest he the best attacking midfielder in the world, and he has truly blossomed under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola at Manchester. The only question will be is can he do the same for Belgium.

They win the group if…

They beat England. Even a draw might be enough, as this team can definitely run up the goal differential versus much lesser teams in Tunisia and Panama. But the sights are set much higher for this Belgian team, who might have the most talent in their squad in their country’s history.

Most likely to be meme-d

Marouane Fellaini

This man has been camping in a bush way before Fortnite came out, just look at the dude’s hair.

*Studio audience laughs*

James is a broadcast journalism major at the University of Maryland. He broadcasts and hosts talk shows for WMUC Sports, beat writes for The Left Bench, reports for the Beltway Bulletin and blogs for What The Sports.

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