Who? Tunisia - England
Where? Volgograd Arena, Volgograd
When? June 18, 20:00 (CET local time)
Tunisia (Uri Levy)
The Tunisian national team is one of the few unique competitors in this World Cup that will joy the absence of one important factor in football: Pressure. In a group with Belgium & England nobody, including the Tunisians themselves, is not expecting the Carthage Eagles to go to the next round.
Tunisia is a special country. It’s where the Arab Spring has erupted first and the primary exporter of ISIS militants. Tunisia is also the only country that its recent series of Middle Eastern revolutions, has ended with a functioning democracy. And yes, it is a football-holic place. With a rich club culture within the local league, the Tunisian national team will enjoy great support in Russia. The squad is the highest ranked Arab team in the world at the moment, 21st in the last FIFA rankings.
Despite winning the Africa Cup of Nations only once, Tunisia is counted as a solid African national team. Their hopes for achieving something in the tournament got a serious hit after both stars, Youssef Msakni & Taha Khneissi, got injured in their clubs’ last matches of the season. This have left the Carthage’s Eagles with Wahbi Khazri as the main man, but also made place for promising talents as Naim Sliti and Saifeddine Khaoui, to play their trade in the world’s biggest football stage.
A qualification for the knockout is a far dream for the Tunisians, but a respectable loss to Belgium, a heroic tie with England and a hammering victory against the weak Panama, will count as a major success for them. With the memories of the two teams meeting in 1998, the result shouldn’t be different (2-0 England), but don’t underestimate Tunisia.
England (Yossi Medina)
England is ready for another World Cup campaign, and this time they want to do it. Well, it might be hard, but the English still believe. England is arriving to this tournament after two huge failures with a winless group stage in 2014 World Cup and being eliminated against Iceland in Euro 2016.
The qualifying was a typical English journey, an easy travel with 8 wins and 2 draws and early booking of tickets to Russia. During the qualifiers, England also had an interesting controversy, while Sam Allardyce was sacked after being involved in corruption scandal.
England found his replacement shortly, as Gareth Southgate was appointed the new England manager. As a player Southgate was also part of one of the biggest disappointments in England's history. In Euro 1996 he missed the crucial penalty against Germany in the semifinals.
With this experience, Southgate wants to lead England to an achievement that they didn't face for a while. Harry Kane, as usual, will be the biggest English name and the hope of many for bringing joy and happiness for the fans. At the age of 24, Kane is making his first ever World Cup and will look for his debut goal in major tournament, as he failed to score two years ago in France.
As usual, one of the biggest problems in England will be the goalkeeping position. Southgate picked three goalkeepers in the ages of 24, 25 and 26, who made together just 12 caps. It seems that Southgate may prefer Everton's Jordan Pickford as his first goalkeeper, hoping that he wouldn't disappoint him.
England is arriving once again to the World Cup full of hope and glory. Now we need to see whether they will sing God Save the Queen until the end or they will need to save their lives from the angry fans.