Russia 2018: Group G Betting Guide
Group Favourites: Belgium at 5/6 with William Hill
Key Fixture: Tunisia v England at Volgograd on 18th June
Most pundits feel that England and Belgium will cruise through a section that also contains World Cup newcomers Panama, and Tunisia who are also bracketed among the minnows of global football.
Those that subscribe to that theory would therefore state that the crucial game in this group comes right at the end when Belgium and England meet in Kaliningrad on June 28. If all goes to plan, both teams will have maximum points coming into that match and it would then come down to a battle to decide who finishes their section at the top. The winners would then face what should be an easier game in the round of 16 against the runners up in Group H but we think England’s destiny will be decided much sooner than that.
Even if we go way back to 1966 and England’s World Cup winning year, we find that the Three Lions tend to start the tournament badly. Back in 2014, Roy Hodgson’s England side lost to a very strong Italian team in what was a poor tournament overall while four years earlier, England could only muster a draw against the USA.
The key clash, therefore comes first when Gareth Southgate’s men take on third favourites Tunisia but who will come out on top and what other fixtures should we be looking at closely from a betting perspective?
England play Tunisia in Volgograd on June 18 and naturally, Gareth Southgate’s men start as favourites for the win at best odds of 41/100 with MarathonBet. The draw is available at a top price of 15/4 with SportingBet while a win for Tunisia completes this result market at a best of 10/1 with Ladbrokes.
The quality of this English side should ensure that they start this campaign with a victory but that notorious record of slow starts in previous World Cups means that even the most patriotic of punters won’t be backing them with any great confidence.
Depending on the result of that game, England will either be comfortably through or desperate for the points when they play their final match of this section against Belgium in Kaliningrad on June 28.
If, as the bookmakers expect, both teams come into this match with maximum points, it will be a decider in terms of who tops the group and faces what, in theory, would be an easier game against the runners up in Group H.
In terms of the result market as it stands, it’s relatively tight with Belgium slight favourites for the win at best odds of 161/100 with MarathonBet, Victory for England is available at a top price of 2/1 with SportingBet but the draw looks very tempting to us at a best of 12/5.
It might be unwise to make a decision at this stage and it all comes back to England’s game with Tunisia. If Gareth Southgate’s side have to face this Belgium team, needing to win to stay alive, it could all go wrong. If, however, both teams have six points when they meet, we should expect a cagey 90 minutes with neither wanting to lose so we will back the draw at that 12/5 figure and hope that the second of those scenarios is in place when this final match starts.
Obviously the strikers in each squad are the men most likely to decide the outcome of this group and we’re looking, in particular, at England’s Harry Kane and Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku to have big tournaments.
Kane was disappointing at Euro 2016, failing to find the net in four matches, but he has a good overall international record with 13 goals from 24 games following his winner against Nigeria in England’s penultimate warm up.
As for Lukaku, he is currently averaging exactly a goal every other game with 34 in 68 for the Belgium national side and that’s a record that has been steadily improving after a slowish start to his international career.
For Tunisia, there is a theory that 25 year old Naim Sliti might be about to enjoy a breakthrough tournament. Officially listed as an attacker, Sliti has a modest scoring record at international level of three goals in 16 games but his dribbling stats and number of assists made him a standout in France’s Ligue 1 while playing for Rennes.
Panama come to Russia with an experienced squad and two players who have registered 43 goals in over 100 full internationals. Both Blas Perez and Luis Tejada are at the veteran stages of their careers but both have exceptional scoring records and will need to be watched.
It’s very interesting to look at the make-up of the four squads that will contest this group. England have a young set of players, most of whom should still be around in four years’ time when they will have developed into more of a threat but is it too soon to expect them to go deep into this tournament.
We know that Belgium have the most talented squad and it’s all about their ability to gel as a team – a quality that eluded them at Euro 2016. In qualifying they were virtually unstoppable and at the very least they are worthy group favourites.
It is hard to see Panama progressing and their best hope is to come away with at least a point from their match against Tunisia on June 24 but it’s the Tunisians who hold the overall key to this group.
We can’t really emphasise enough as to how crucial that opening game is and for England, we could even say it is a must win. Gareth Southgate’s men just can’t afford to come into the final tie with that supreme Belgian outfit needing to win as that scenario has the capacity to go horribly wrong.
If they do beat the Tunisians, England can get at least a point from Belgium and give some value as second favourites to win the group. We’re tipping them to do just that but this entire section revolves around that June 18 opener.
- England to win Group G at 11/8 with Black Type
- England v Belgium: The Draw at 12/5 with Black Type