In Group G of the FIFA World Cup, there are certainly two favourites that should feature in the knockout stages, but in the world of football anything can happen.
Upsets and emergence of an improved team are always welcome instances in football and in this group, one slip-up can result in massive changes at the top of the cluster.
This group includes England and Belgium who were paired against Panama and Tunisia. The first two teams are heavily considered to advance from this group, but they have also had performances that were subpar, and these could be the perfect opportunity for the other two nations to pounce.
Anything other than a dominating performance should be a disappointment for Belgium in the group stages, especially with a team laden with such wonderful talent.
There are times that the blame has been directed towards team management, but Belgium are under a new coach in Roberto Martinez and they should have no excuses in this competition.
The squad is riddled with stars, with Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard as the biggest names in the midfield and the final third. The defence still have dependable names such as Vincent Kompany, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.
However, many expect Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne to be the breakout superstar for Belgium in the World Cup. He had a spectacular season with City and he may still be improving as he still has youth on his side.
Returning to the World Cup for the first time in 12 years, Tunisia were impressive in their qualifying matches.
During the qualifiers, there were many African teams favoured ahead of Tunisia like Libya, Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo, but Tunisia finished ahead in the table.
In reality, expectations are not too high with Tunisia and winning at least one game should already be considered an accomplishment on its own.
Youssef Msakni has had an incredible run of form in the qualifiers, scoring a hat-trick againt Guinea in their away game and if he continues in the grandest stage, could set himself up for superstardom.
Making their debut in the World Cup, Panama already made waves when they performed beyond expectation in the qualifiers.
Their inclusion to the “big dance” has earned the country a national holiday, and they played a part in the United States failing to qualify for Russia.
In this group, it is difficult to match Panama up with the talent the other nations offer, but this group of players play hard and are very physical in their approach to the game – which makes them very difficult to overthrow.
Armando Cooper may be the team’s key if they are to gain success, as the midfielder is versatile and can command he team in both ends of the pitch. He is also a very capable winger if adjustments need to be done on the fly.
A squad with talent should be considered as heavy favourites in the competition, but England have shown chinks in their armour despite being relatively unchallenged through the World Cup qualifiers.
The Three Lions went unbeaten in qualifying but were far from dominating with Gareth Southgate at the helm. The team has a lot of players that a clear first team is difficult to pinpoint.
After their golden generation, England seem to be settled with the players they have and have improved overall.
Raheem Sterling may be a player to watch, but Harry Kane will undoubtedly be the team’s best talent and should showcase it in the biggest stage of international football.
TEAMS TO GO THROUGH
If everything goes according to plan, England and Belgium should have a straightforward shot to the knockout stages.
However, slipping up against the other two teams could make things very interesting and the final showdown between the favourites may determine who moves on and sits out of the competition.