Can the Three Lions win their first match in the group stages for the first time since 2006? Gareth Southgate’s men have been raring to go in Russia as they gear up for the first match against Tunisia.
Location: Volgograd Arena (Volgograd)
Time: 19:00 18th June, 2018
Gareth Southgate and his men can come into this game with heaps of confidence, with two victories in their warm up fixtures against Nigeria and Costa Rica. England can feel they can use this fixture to send a message out to other teams, that they really are taking this seriously. England won their World Cup qualifying group with ease, but that has not been the problem for the Three Lions in recent tournaments. The early exits at the World Cups in South Africa and Brazil have given England a reputation of not being able to cut it when it reaches the big time. This is a chance to change that as they start their quest for glory against a Tunisia side who topped their qualifying group, being undefeated in their 6 games. This Tunisian side will like the role of the underdog. They have also beaten Costa Rica in an International friendly in recent months and will look to frustrate this English side which could be exposed as they were in Euro 2016 against Iceland.
Manager: Gareth Southgate
Preferred Formation: 3-5-2
Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur): Recently named the captain of this England side which are bursting to get started, Kane will have a very important role of scoring the goals. He didn’t really kick on in the Euros as Roy Hodgson bizarrely had the Spurs man taking corners and free-kicks which evidently knocked his confidence. Kane will be using his strengths, which are his hold up play to allow other players such as Deli All and Jesse Lingard to get forward, as well as his finishing which he has shown for the past 3 consecutive seasons is phenomenal. No-one more than Kane will want this England team to succeed with him as the skipper, so he will be eager to show his ability on the biggest stage.
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City): Sterling scored 18 Premier League goals this season, which is outstanding for the versatile forward who has flourished under Pep Guardiola. He will be looking to take this form into the World Cup with England as he will be desperate to prove a point to the media outlets which have been slating him. One of the only bright sparks from the World Cup in Brazil, Sterling will want to put the ball in the back of the net this time round, not the4 side netting which sent the England fans into frenzy back home. The 23-year-old will want to build upon the two goals he has scored for his country. His movement and skill could prove too much for the Tunisians to handle.
Style of play: Southgate has shown in the Three Lions warm up matches that he is going to be utilising the pace and movement of key players Sterling, Lingard and Alli as England have shown patience in these games waiting for one of these to create the space for an opening. With Southgate opting for wing-backs he will be looking for probable starters Kieran Trippier and Ashley Young to use their crossing abilities to get balls into the box early, with everyone looking to work an opening for star man Harry Kane.
Team news: Marcus Rashford was due back in training on Friday after a slight problem but should be fit for Englands opener. There are no other injury concerns.
Predicted starting 11: Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Trippier, Young, Alli, Henderson, Lingard, Sterling, Kane.
Manager: Nabil Maâloul
Preferred Formation: 4-5-1
Naim Sliti (Dijon): The Ligue 1 forward has scored seven goals and made six assists in 35 appearances for the mid-table side, scoring four of those and assisting two in the last 6 games of the season. The in-form forward would like to replicate this, being one the players with a high reputation in this Tunisian side. The 25-year-old would like to add to his three goals for his country which all came in the African Cup of Nations. England should be wary with the forwards dribbling and finishing being his key attributes so they could try to isolate the lone striker.
Ellyes Skhiri (Montpellier): The defensive midfielder has had a successful season at the Ligue 1 outfit finishing in 10th place, one place above teammate Sliti. He appeared 35 times this season for La Paillade in Ligue 1, scoring four goals and boasting an 86% passing accuracy. That is the role the Tunisian plays in this side, he is given the responsibility of linking the play together, using his experience to help his teammates. He is patient and calm on the ball, he doesn’t mind pressure being put on him so England will want to try to keep the ball away from the creative Tunisian.
Style of Play: Manager Nabil Maâloul is going to look to cause a shock against this English side which many are beginning to believe can go a long way. They have shown in recent fixtures that they are tough to break down, only conceding three goals against Costa Rica, Iran, Spain and Portugal which are all competing in the World Cup, this is a great return for the Tunisians and should fill them with lots of confidence. They will look to pack the midfield with five men so that England find it hard to play through and possibly aim to use the counter-attack to their advantage, using there skill of Sliti and Khazri to cause problems.
Team News: The Tunisians have no fresh injury concerns and are raring to go in Russia.
Predicted starting XI: Mathlouthi, Bronn, S. Youssef, Meriah, Maaloul, F. Youssef, Khazri, Skhiri, Sassi, Badri, Sliti.
Do you think England will suffer any problems against this Tunisian side? Let us know using the hashtag #AOF or leaving a comment below.
featured image credit Youtube