Preview: Tunisia v England

England will be hoping for a repeat of their last encounter against Tunisia when the two teams meet at the Volgograd Arena in Group G on Monday.

2018 FIFA World Cup
18 June 2018
Group G
Kick-off: 02:00 HKT (19 June)
Venue: Volgograd Arena

Referee: W. Roldan
Assistants: A. Guzman, C. de la Cruz
Fourth official: R. Montero
Fifth official: C. Rockwell

Previous encounter:

England 2-0 Tunisia (1998 World Cup) 15/06/1998

England goalscorers: A. Shearer (43′), P. Scholes (89′)

Players to watch:

The Eagles of Carthage will be hoping for big things from Wahbi Khazri in the 2018 World Cup. The 27-year-old attacking midfielder scored just twice during qualifying, but enjoyed a productive season at Rennes on loan from Sunderland, scoring nine goals in 24 Ligue 1 appearances.

Tottenham striker Harry Kane is the Three Lions’ new star man after impressing for both club and country in the last two years. The 24-year-old finished 2017 as the top scorer in Europe with 56 goals and he reached the 30-goal mark for the first time in his Premier League career last season.

Team form and manager quotes:

Tunisia’s form in the finals leaves much to be desired after recording just one win in their 12 group matches. That solitary victory came in their first appearance during the 1978 edition in Argentina when they beat Mexico 3-1.

The North Africans finished top of their group in qualifying and lost just once in six friendlies in the build-up to the tournament – a 1-0 defeat to Spain on June 9.

Head coach Nabil Maaloul is aware of the tough task awaiting his players in Volgograd, but has faith in their ability to reach the knockout stages, starting with a good result in their group opener.

“We are ready for the match,” Maaloul said in his pre-match press conference. “We will face one of the best teams in this tournament. All of England’s players play in the Premier League, which is a good thing for them.

“This generation has good quality and our objective is to reach the quarter-final, especially as we have played at a high level in friendly matches.”

England manager Gareth Southgate has looked to the youth since taking over the reins from Sam Allardyce. He will be looking to improve the national team’s fortunes of late, after they were knocked out of the 2014 World Cup at the group stages and suffered a shock defeat to Iceland in the round of 16 at Euro 2016.

The Three Lions went through the qualifying campaign unbeaten with eight wins and two draws, and they haven’t lost in their last 10 outings. Their build-up to the finals included goalless draws against heavyweights Germany and Brazil, along with three victories.

The English players have been burdened with great expectations ever since the 1966 World Cup triumph. Southgate, who himself has experienced disappointment with his country as a player, is keen to look to the future however.

“I think the history can help us in terms of understanding what we can improve upon and do,” he told the press.

“You learn lessons from the past, but this team shouldn’t be burdened with it because they’re a fresh group, most of them have very few international caps. The future is all ahead of them, so they have to be thinking about what’s possible.

“The players of the past and opportunities of the past are gone. This team is looking at things in a different way, trying to play in a different way.

“They have a hunger, a desire, we have better technical players than we’ve had in the past coming through our academies, so there’s a real enthusiasm.”

Team news:

Southgate has a fully-fit squad to choose from, with Marcus Rashford having recovered from a knee injury he picked up in training on Tuesday.

Khazri is expected to start for the Tunisians, despite having not featured for the last two months due to a thigh problem.