Home Football England vs Tunisia: World Cup Preview
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England vs Tunisia: World Cup Preview

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Ah, the World Cup. It’s good to have you back. We’re not even a third of the way through the group matches yet and we’ve already seen so, so much… Drama, great goals, VAR controversies, shocks and lots and lots of penalties. But while watching France, Brazil, Spain and Argentina struggle (and Germany lose) is fun, it’s nowhere near as exciting/frustrating/nerve-racking/heart-breaking as watching England, is it?

Gareth Southgate’s lot start their campaign tonight at 7pm in a mosquito-infested Volgograd against Tunisia. While the excellently-nicknamed Eagles of Carthage might not quite strike the fear of God into many, they’re no mugs. The Three Lions will still fancy their chances here, though.

Let’s have a quick look at what’s in store…

 

Team news

England v Tunisia
Hopefully Ashley Young’s wearing a number 18 shirt here and not just stealing Jordan Henderson’s clothes.

Gareth Southgate has kept his cards fairly close to his chest when it comes to the starting XI for this first tie. But he’ll shortly be fanning those cards out on the table for all to see and it’s expected to contain quite a few aces. And while this England World Cup squad might not be the most gifted bunch ever assembled, there should be more than enough talent on the bench to prove that The Three Lions have got something up their sleeve should they need it.

Southgate will be confident he’s got a good hand. For that to prove true, he’ll need Jordan Pickford to show that he has two good hands, as it’s the Everton lad that’s getting the nod over Stoke’s Jack Butland in the solitaire position. We’d normally opt for a pair at the back, but it’ll be a three of Stones, Walker and Maguire, with Tripper and Young the wing backs.

It looks like Henderson’s to be preferred over Dier, with joker-in-the-pack Dele Alli sitting in the middle with him. Lingard and Sterling are to be the wild cards sitting behind King of Diamonds, Harry Kane.

How’s that for stretching a metaphor, eh?

 

Tactics

England v Tunisia
Alright, this isn’t *exactly* how England might line up, but it’s close enough.

The tactics employed this evening won’t be a huge shock. England have played with three centre backs for some time now. Three at the back allows the wing backs to push forward, but requires a ball-playing ‘keeper (hence Pickford’s inclusion). Henderson will sit, gifting Alli the opportunity to bomb on and link up with the forward players. Kane especially. Captain Kane will be the fulcrum up top, but Sterling and Lingard will be able to push up into secondary striker roles when the wing backs are on the offensive.

A similar set-up will no doubt be seen in England’s next game against Panama, given that the emphasis will be on retaining possession and dominating play. But expect changes when Belgium take to the field. In approach and personnel.

 

Notable opposition players

England v Tunisia
Tunisia’s World Cup sponsorship deal with Head & Shoulders had hit an early snag.

Tunisia are a ‘unit’. Which means that none of them, on their own, are much cop. Yohan Benalouane (top right) plays in the Premier League (well, he sits on the bench) for Leicester City. And Wahbi Khazri (top left) is ‘mercurial’, having played well and then mostly awful for Sunderland. A loan spell at Rennes has revitalised him a little, though. So he could spell some danger for England.

 

Head to head

England v Tunisia
Steve Bull scored for England in this game. Seriously.

We’ve only ever played Tunisia twice before. The first time was a friendly to prepare Bobby Robson’s men for Italia ’90. Abdelhamid Hergal belted in a worldy from 35 yards. Wolves’ Steve Bull equalised on 89.

 

Last meeting

England v Tunisia
The Shearer One Arm here. Distracting the world from English hooliganism PERFECTLY.

It’s been twenty years and three days since we last faced tonight’s foes. It was a World Cup opener at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille at France ’98. Now England manager Gareth Southgate played. England won 2-0 through Alan Shearer and Paul Scholes.

 

Odds

England v Tunisia
Where are all the little pens?!

You’d have to fancy England for this, but at 1/2? Only a very confident and rich England fan is making any moolah off that. Cynics or Scottish football fans can get 10/1 on England coming unstuck, which is not exactly unheard of in major competitions, is it? Plus you only have to see how the other ‘big’ teams have fared so far. The draw is 3/1.

Also at 3/1 is the game to be a draw at half time and an England win at full time. Which isn’t generous, but still appeals.

As for first goalscorers, you know who leads the way. Kane is just 9/4 to bag the opening goal.

 

Predictions

England v Tunisia
Seems legit.

Tunisia can cause England problems. We’ve had a quick peek into our crystal ball and it doesn’t show them scoring, but it does show them frustrating us quite a bit. It looked like it said 0-0. But we’re not having that. We must have read it wrong. We’ve been meaning to have that thing cleaned for a while. It must have predicted an England win…

We’re going for a hard-fought 1-0 win (that’s 4/1). Harry Kane penalty. A lateish goal and an okay performance.

England v Tunisia

There’s no finer place to watch the big game than down Rileys. Book your ticket now by clicking that huge red thing up there that says ‘BOOK NOW’. You won’t regret it.

Steve Charnock A freelance writer who writes news stories, features, articles, reviews and lists. But *always* forgets to write his mum a birthday card. Follow him on Twitter or follow him into the pub and buy him a drink.