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World Cup draw: England face Belgium, Panama and Tunisia in Group G

England looking forward to getting on with it – Southgate

England have been drawn with Belgium, Panama and Tunisia in Group G at next year’s Fifa World Cup in Russia.

Gareth Southgate’s men will begin their tournament against Tunisia on Monday, 18 June (19:00 BST) in Volgograd.

They will then face World Cup debutants Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on 24 June (13:00 BST) before playing top seeds Belgium four days later in Kaliningrad (19:00 BST).

Russia play Saudi Arabia in the opening game in Moscow on 14 June (16:00 BST).

Holders Germany are in Group F with Mexico, Sweden and South Korea while five-times winners Brazil are in Group E alongside Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia.

The 2018 tournament takes place in 12 stadiums across Russia between 14 June and 15 July.

The schedule of matches in England’s group

“We need to find out more about Tunisia and Panama as we haven’t been tracking them,” Southgate told BBC Radio 5 live.

“We know everything about Belgium. I think that will capture the imagination back home as they have so many players in our league. They have probably the best group of players they’ve ever had.

“My experience of tournaments is you need to get a result in all three matches. In the past we’ve assumed we’ll be in certain rounds but we need to make sure we get out of our group.”

Shearer remembers beating Tunisia in ’98

World Cup groups in full

  • Group A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay
  • Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
  • Group C: France, Australia, Peru, Denmark
  • Group D: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria
  • Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
  • Group F: Germany, Sweden, Mexico, South Korea
  • Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
  • Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan

Who got the hardest draw?

There is not one group that obviously stands above the rest as being the toughest.

In terms of ranking positions, Group B looks the most difficult.

European champions Portugal, ranked third in the world, have been drawn with 2010 World Cup winners Spain as well as Iran – who went unbeaten in 10 Asian qualifying matches – and Morocco, who topped an African group that featured Ivory Coast.

Group F also looks tricky for the reigning champions. Germany, who beat Argentina 1-0 in the 2014 final in Brazil, will likely face three robust examinations against Mexico, Sweden and South Korea as they try to retain the title for the first time since Brazil did so in 1962.

Resurgent Brazil – thrashed 7-1 in the 2014 semi-final in Belo Horizonte – have also been handed what looks like a quietly exacting group.

Alongside Neymar’s Brazil in Group E are Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia while Lionel Messi and his Argentina team-mates play debutants Iceland – who reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 – Croatia and Nigeria.

A good group for England?

England’s record against their group-stage opponents
Opponent Played Won Drawn Lost
Belgium 21 15 5 1
Tunisia 2 1 1 0
Panama 0 0 0 0

England will know all about Belgium, given the large number of their squad who play in the Premier League. Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne of Manchester City are both enjoying superb seasons so far while Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku recently became the country’s leading all-time top scorer.

England have not lost to Belgium in their past 11 meetings – and their only defeat against them in 21 games was in 1936.

The Three Lions have met Tunisia twice before, drawing a friendly in 1990 and beating the North Africans in their opening game of the 1998 World Cup in France, a match Southgate remembers well.

Drawing England is very special – Martinez

“It was a fantastic day as a player to play in a brilliant occasion, our fans made an incredible atmosphere that day,” the former defender said of the game in Marseille that England won 2-0.

“It’s nice to be able to relive that.”

Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul says he “knows all about” England’s players and when asked about whether he was happy to be in the same group as them, he said: “Yes, and we will win.”

England have never met Central America country Panama and won’t be familiar with their players with only three of their current squad playing in Europe.

The Panamanians sealed their place at a first World Cup at the expense of the USA when they controversially defeated Costa Rica 2-1, with Gabriel Torres’ header for their first goal not appearing to cross the line.

England’s possible route to the final

In summary, reaching the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on 15 July is not going to be easy.

If England top their group, their path to the final could see them come up against Colombia, Brazil, France and then Germany.

If Southgate’s side finish second then it could be Poland, Germany, Spain and then Brazil in the final.

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