24-year-old striker, Harry Kane, has 108 goals in 150 appearances for Tottenham Hotspur. Kane is set to captain the England national team in the 2018 FIFA World Cup (via @HKane/Twitter)

FIFA World Cup preview: Manchester’s De Bruyne to lead top-ranked Belgium side through Group G

Young England side hopes to return to winning ways and advance to knockout stage

The 2018 FIFA World Cup begins on Thursday, June 14. Leading up to the tourney, we’ll offer our previews and predictions for each of the eight groups. Today, a look at Group G:

Belgium

FIFA rank (as of June 7, 2018): 3

Best player: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

De Bruyne runs the midfield. He led the English Premier League in assists in 2017-18 with 16 as well he led Manchester City to a Premier League title. With a forward group as skilled as Belgium’s, De Bruyne will be the go-to in the attacking midfield.

One to watch: Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)

The 25-year-old striker uses a combination of speed and physical play to get through defences. He has a deadly left-footed shot that produced 25 goals in the 2016-17 Premier League season for Everton.

Outlook:

In 1986, Belgium achieved fourth place for their best-ever finish at the World Cup. They have an unbelievably talented squad that has the ability to win the tournament. Anything short of the semifinals and it would be classified as a failure.

READ MORE: FIFA World Cup preview: Lionel Messi set to shine on the world stage in Group D

Panama

FIFA rank: 55

Best player: Ramon Torres (Seattle Sounders)

Torres is a rock at centre-back and was influential in helping the Sounders capture the MLS Cup in 2016, the first in Sounders history.

One to watch: Luis Tejada (Sport Boys)

Tejada is tied for the most goals in Panama history with 43, along with teammate Blas Perez. He had a successful season in 2017 with Universitario with 18 goals.

Outlook:

A nation of roughly 4 million people, this is the first time Panama has appeared in a World Cup. They will enjoy every moment in Russia, however it is unlikely they will win a game.

Tunisia

FIFA rank: 21

Best player: Wahbi Khazri (Rennes)

Khazri is on loan from Sunderland to Rennes in the French Ligue 1.

One to watch: Mouez Hassen (Chateauroux)

It is likely that Tunisia will call upon the 23-year-old goalkeeper to start. Originally born in France, Hassen has represented the nation at every youth level from Under-16s through to Under-21s. In 2018 he decided to represent his parents’ native Tunisia.

Outlook:

This will be Tunisia’s fifth World Cup appearance and they have yet to make it past the group stage. A group that includes Belgium and England will likely mean an early exit for the African side.

READ MORE: FIFA World Cup preview: Whitecaps’ Kendall Waston hopes to repeat success of Costa Rica in 2014 in Group E

England

FIFA rank: 12

Best player: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)

Kane will captain England side. Kane won the Premier League Golden Boot in back-to-back seasons (2015-16 and 2016-17), scoring 25 and 29 goals, respectively. He is a strong forward and one of the world’s best at finding ways to put the ball into the back of the net.

One to watch: Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)

Alli is the third-youngest player on the roster yet his experience would say otherwise. He scored 18 goals in the Premier League in 2016-17 for the Spurs as a midfielder. Alli is a tall presence in the midfield and will be influential in controlling the play for England.

Outlook:

In 2014 England had a poor performance at the World Cup as they were unable to make it through the group stage. At the Euros in 2016, England fell to Iceland in the round of 16. Expectations are low for this squad, however they are virtually guaranteed to make it through the group stage this time around.

Group Winner: Belgium. They are talented, strong and fast and are a lock to make it to at least the quarter-finals.

Group Runner-up: England. Despite recent blunders in past tournaments, England has a capable side of making a run well into the knockout stage.

READ MORE: FIFA World Cup preview: Defending World Cup champions Germany prepared to lead Group F


@kieranroconnor
kieran.oconnor@bpdigital.ca

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