By Colin Woon
Last Updated: 13th December 2018
Kick off: Monday June 18th 2018
Volgograd Arena, Volgograd
Live on BBC1 and BBC1 HD
News coming from the camp is that centre half Harry Maguire, midfielder Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling are all set to start in their group G opening fixture against Tunisia this evening.
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There is a quiet sense of optimism and anticipation with this current England squad – a squad that features wholesale changes from the 2016 European championships. A young squad perhaps not carrying the weight of expectation as in previous iterations, and a young manager in Southgate eager to create a brighter future for the England team.
England will want to make a good start against Tunisia, knowing that a tough challenge against a Belgium team peppered with Premiership stars lies in wait. There will be no underestimation of the task at hand from Southgate, who will be well aware of the challenge that Tunisia pose, and keen to avoid another England upset following on from the humiliation against Iceland two years ago.
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Whilst most fans will be expecting England to kick off their World Cup 2018 campaign with a win, this Tunisia team will be no pushover. Currently 21st in FIFA World rankings, Tunisia arrive at the World Cup off the back of some impressive results, including a 2-2 draw in a friendly against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, whilst shutting out Diego Costa in a 0-0 draw against Spain. Following these successful preparations for Russia, they will certainly feel that they have a chance of defying the odds against this young England team.
Nonetheless, it’s what happens during the actual tournament counts, and both teams will be hoping to get off to a positive start in the knowledge that sterner tests await against Belgium .
Having never been defeated previously by an African team at the World Cup, England will be looking to produce a performance mirroring the success of their previous encounter with Tunisia – a 2-0 win at the 1998 World Cup.
- Marcus Rashford has returned to training having recovered from a knee injury, and posted on twitter that it’s “nothing to worry about”
- Wahbi Khazri may start for Tunisia despite not playing since April for his club Rennes.
- Ali Maaloul has been struggling with a hamstring problem but should also be declared fit to play
- Youssef Msakni was ruled out back in April with a cruciate knee ligament injury.
England vs Tunisia stats
- England are undefeated against African teams at the World Cup (W3 D3), keeping five clean sheets in six games.
- England had the joint-best defensive record in the 2018 UEFA World Cup qualifiers alongside Spain, conceding three goals in 10 games.
- Tunisia have qualified for their fifth World Cup, their first since 2006. They have never reached the knockout stages in their four previous appearances.
- England have won only one of their last eight games at the World Cup (D4 L3), a 1-0 victory over Slovenia in June 2010. They have also never scored more than one goal in their last nine games at the tournament.