Tunisia v England – Volgograd Arena at 19:00
The Eagles of Carthage are back at it for the first time since 2006 after slipping past the qualifiers. Coach Nabi Maaloul leads a compact team, a representative of Africa and the Arabic world. Gareth Southgate has a fresh, young group in his helm. The English squad’s first and sole World Cup win was back in 1966 and they have been failing to get a victory ever since. Tunisia and England last met in the group stages of the 1998 World Cup and both are heading to this year’s showdown with their nations’ dreams of getting the crown.
– Southgate has already announced his starting XI for Tunisia within the squad to ease anxiety ahead of their World Cup opener.
– Marcus Rashford has been back in training after injury concern.
– England’s captain Harry Kane has stated the belief that he can make the World Cup his first trophy.
– Tunisia’s star player Yousef Msakni will not make it to the World Cup because of injury but has boldly declared that his team will beat the Three Lions because they’re mentally stronger.
England have topped their group only once in last five World Cup appearances. This time around, they have solid defense to boot. They have joint best defense record in the 2018 UEFA World Cup qualifiers and they’re one of the four unbeaten teams (Germany, Belgium, Spain). They kept eight clean sheets along the way and have only conceded three goals in ten matches.
Tunisia saw off Congo in key games in the qualifiers and have won over Iran and Costa Rica in World Cup friendlies. They’ve managed to secure a draw from both Portugal and Turkey which only goes to show they’re more than capable of a win.
KEY PLAYERS: BATTLE OF ATTACKERS
Delle Alli is considered by many as England’s “most dangerous weapon”. Tunisia’s coach Maaloul has singled out the playmaker as the man they should be wary of. His last pass style is both polished and spontaneous.
Whabi Khazri is England’s main threat for this upcoming match. Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford reckons Khazri’s skills to whip goals under the crossbar can be perilous for his team.
England: Gareth’s side has given way to the unorthodox 3-5-2 set and the formation switch has reaped encouraging results for them in the past. They will most likely stick to this system in the match against Tunisia.
Tunisia: Two forwards on the line (4-3-2-1) will make for an interesting combination of play for Tunisia. Three central midfielders will provide strong defense and will automatically keep opponents wide.
PROBABLE STARTING XI:
England: Kyle Walker, John Stones, Rashford Maguire, Kieran Trippier, Jordan Henderson, Jesse Lingard, Dele Alli, Ashley Young, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Jordan Pickford
Tunisia: Wahbi Khazri, Khenissi, Ghaylene Chalali, Anice Badri, Amine Ben Amor, Msakni, Hamdi Nagguez, Syam Ben Youssef, Ali Maaloul, Yassine Meriah, Aymen Mathlouthi
Tunisia v England: 1-2
Punters can lean towards Asian handicap or totals on this one, they might even knock it out of the park with that projection. Tunisia was in good form in the friendly against Spain. With the right counter-attack, they can frustrate England. They are also a stubbornly-defensive team and that should be enough to keep England on their toes. Speed/finishing of attackers Delle Alli and Harry Kane can prove lethal for the African hopefuls though. Frankly, the English side is just furnished with better technical players.
Nabil Maaloul said his team will be pushing for an upset that will go down in history. If Mexico’s recent win is to go by, this is not that far off.