England get lucky but Gareth Southgate urges caution

Posted December 03, 2017

The World Cup trophy on display in Moscow, Russia.

"The key to qualification is going to be the first match, on 18 June, against England", Maaloul told BBC Sport.

It will be nearly exactly 20 years to the day when England played Tunisia in their opening fixture of the 1998 World Cup, with England winning 2-0 on June 15.

"Dele Alli and Harry Kane are exceptional players. We are expecting a very hard match".

They'll then meet Panama - who are appearing in the tournament for the first time - before a clash with Belgium in their final Group G match in Kaliningrad.

"We have a group chat where there is always banter flying". "I saw their last game against Germany (a 0-0 draw last month), and they are a good side, young, with lots of new faces". They have talented players.

"We have a great chance", said the former worldwide, who played for Tunisia between 1982-1994.

With all this considered, it's now high time we had a peek at what England's players (might?) be wearing as they take to the field in Russian Federation. We can't just have one captain and rely on them.

England tend not to beat the big nations at major tournaments - when it comes to previous winners, they have only beaten Argentina, in the 2002 group stage, since winning the World Cup in 1966 - so finding themselves in with Belgium from Pot 1 is a positive result for Southgate despite the undoubted quality that Roberto Martinez's squad possess. Breaking Panama down will be England's challenge but with Tunisia and Panama cast in the roles of minnows, England must perform as they did in their qualifying campaign, where they were efficient rather than stylish.

That was the Carthage Eagles' very first game at the finals but they have failed to win any of their 11 World Cup games since - the longest winless run of any team in Russian Federation next year.

Tunisia have never reached the knock-out stage of a World Cup, having failed in 1978, 1998, 2002 and 2006.