Tunisia vs England – Monday, June 18, 19:00BST/20:00CEST/21:00 MSK – Volgograd Arena, Volgograd, Russia
England will enter the 2018 FIFA World Cup with almost a clean slate. Since 1966 the Three Lions have regularly disappointed on the world’s biggest stage. But failures at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 European Championships, so it seems, have taken the enthusiasm among England followers.
In truth, there should be a sense of optimism surrounding this young and exciting England side. Head coach Gareth Southgate has assembled a side that is the third youngest at this year’s tournament – only France and Nigeria have younger squads. Furthermore, England have experienced significant success at youth tournaments with the U-17 and U-20 winning the FIFA World Cup and the U-19 securing the European Championship.
The current side includes young and up and coming stars Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane. In the back England have made a fresh start with Southgate dropping Joe Hart in favour of Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope. None of the keepers constitute world class but are a substantial upgrade over the error-prone Hart.
Hence, things look good for England as they face Tunisia in their first match in Group G. The North African side are going to take part in their first tournament since qualifying for Germany in 2006 and will be the biggest outsiders in the group.
Coached by Nabil Maaloul took over from Henryk Kasperczak and secured Tunisia, who were struggling at the qualification stage, their ticket to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Les Aigles de Carthage have now got the difficult task of facing England and Belgium in Group G. Both those sides are expected to finish ahead of the North Africans, who will battle with Panama for the third spot. As a result, anything but a decisive victory by the Three Lions would constitute a major World Cup shock.
Tunisia vs England – Players to look out for:
Naïm Sliti #23 – Tunisia (Dijon)
Naïm Sliti will be Tunisia’s most important player when they kick off against England. On loan at Dijon from Lille last season Sliti managed seven goals and six assists in 31 Ligue 1 matches last season. Instrumental in helping Dijon finish in the relative mid-table safety Sliti will return to Lille in July but a strong tournament could secure him a big money move to a bigger European club.
Harry Kane #9 – England (Tottenham)
Harry Kane is England’s biggest star going into the tournament. The Tottenham forward managed 30 goals in 37 English Premier League games this season and also scored seven goals in seven Champions League matches. For England, Kane has been equally effective scoring 13 goals in 24 games for the Three Lions. It is, therefore, no surprise that the 24-year-old will be leading his country as the captain throughout the tournament in Russia.
Tunisia vs England – Match Stats
- England are one of only four teams; the other three are Belgium, Spain and Germany, to remain undefeated throughout World Cup qualifying.
- The two sides last met at the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France – England won the match 2-0.
- Tunisia will be taking part in their fifth World Cup, the first one since 2006, and have never managed to get beyond the group stage.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Tunisia vs England – 0-2
Tunisia vs England – Lineups
Mouez Hassen – Meriah, Ben Youssef, Bronn, Maaloul – Skhiri, Badri, Sassi – Ben Youssef, Khazri, Sliti
Head Coach: Nabil Maaloul
Pickford – Walker, Stones, Maguire – Kieran Trippier, Alli, Henderson, Lingard, Young – Sterling, Kane.
Head Coach: Gareth Southgate
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.