Belgium have appeared in the final tournament of the FIFA World Cup on twelve occasions, the first being at the first in 1930 where they finished in eleventh place. They have failed to qualify seven times. Mexico 1986 World cup was the Red devils’ best outing.
Picked up as the best third-placed team, in the knockout phase, Belgium surprisingly won against favourites Soviet Union after extra time (3–4). They also beat Spain on penalties after a 1–1 draw, but they couldn’t curtail Diego Maradona’s brilliance as the Argentinian’s brace sent Belgium packing in the semifinal. They equally lost the third place match against France 4-2 after extra time.
ROAD TO RUSSIA: In the qualifier for the Russia 2018 fiesta, Belgium were pitied in Group H with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Estonia , Cyprus , and Gibraltar. Expectedly, they cruised through the group, winning 9 of their opening 10 games and qualified as winners of the group.
THEIR CHANCES: Belgium have not collectively met the loftus heights worthy of the top quality in their current ranks in recent times.
Over eleven million people of Belgium will be rooting for the national team to bring home the trophy as the Red devils are certainly one of the big favourites for the showpiece in Russia.
It will be considered a disaster if Belgium fail to make it beyond the quarter finals in Russia 2018.
STARS TO WATCH: This is arguably the best Belgium squad in recent years. And so much will be expected from the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois, and Jan Vertonghen.
KEY MAN: Kevin De Bruyne. The Manchester City ace has been a beckon at the heart of City’s midfield. A class act whose influence will be invaluable in Russia for the Red devils.
England did not enter the competition until 1950, but has entered all seventeen subsequent tournaments except in 1994 in USA, It has failed to qualify for the finals on three occasions, 1974 (West Germany), 1978 (Argentina) and 1994 (United States). Their best ever performance is winning the Cup in the 1966 tournament held in England where they beat West Germany 4-2 after extra time; and reaching fourth place in Italy 1990. Other than that, the team has reached the quarter finals on six occasions, including 2002 (Korea/Japan), and 2006 (Germany). The 2014 (Brazil) World Cup was their worst ever performance in a major tournament.
ROAD TO RUSSIA: Drawn in Group F with Lithuania, Malta, Scotland, Slovakia and Slovenia, the Three Lions won the group convincingly. Apart from draws away to Slovenia and Scotland, England had an impeccable run to the Russia 2018 finals; winning their 8 other qualifiers and scoring a decent 15 goals in the process.
THEIR CHANCES: They may not be everyone’s favorite, but they have got some match winners in their ranks; and will most certainly pose a threat to the traditional “Big nations”.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: There may not be stellar names as in the days of David Beckham and Frank Lampard in the squad, but players like Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane, and Raheem Sterling could as well herald a new Golden generation for the three Lions.
KEY MAN: With his 43 goals in 38 appearances for club and country (as at the time of this report) in 2017; and an average of 1.13 goals per game, Harry Kane will be England’s most important player in the tournament.
Tunisia will be making their fifth appearance in the World Cup finals in Russia 2018.
Their first was at the 1978 finals in Argentina, where they finished in ninth position. They also featured in 1998, 2002 and 2006. The Carthage Eagles became the first African country to win a World Cup game, when they defeated Mexico 3-1 in Rosario, Argentina during their debut World Cup game. That win in Argentina became the only time Tunisia has won a World Cup game.
ROAD TO RUSSIA: In CAF third round qualification Group A, Tunisia was pitied alongside DR Congo, Libya and Guinea. The Carthage Eagles only drew twice during the qualifiers, winning other four games, with 11 goals scored, and 4 conceded.
THEIR CHANCES: The Carthage Eagles will be looking for their first World Cup win since 40 years. Tunisia were in a tough group during the qualifiers, but will be faced with sterner tests in Russia. One remarkable stat about this current Tunisian squad is; apart from that Youssef Msakni’s hat-trick in their 4-1 win against Guinea, their 8 other goals were scored by 8 different players. Impressive! Isn’t it? So, will they get their first World Cup win since 1978?
But they are in a difficult group.
STARS TO WATCH: Aymen Abdennour, Youssef Msakni, Wahbi Khazri.
KEY PLAYER: Youssef Msakni; Msakni, the Qatar Stars League club Al-Duhail forward was already a star at 19, when he starred for Tunisia at the AFCON. Now, 27, Mskani has scored 14 goals in 51 appearances for the Carthage Eagles and look set to deliver on the World stage.
Russia 2018 will be Panama’s first appearance in the World Cup. They directly qualified after securing the third spot in the hexagonal on the final round. This meant that after 10 failed qualification campaigns, Panama would appear at the World Cup for the first time in their history.
ROAD TO RUSSIA: Panama secured their spot in Russia 2018, finishing third in the group, with 3 wins and 3 losses, having drawn 4 of their games during their CONCACAF hexagonal qualifiers.
THEIR CHANCES: They finished the qualifiers as second runners up and obviously lack the required experience at the top level. However, Panama will not exit Russia without a fight.
STARS TO WATCH: Gabriel Torres, Roman Torres, Fidel Escobar, Luis Tejada.
KEY PLAYER: Luis Tejada; The Veteran striker is Panama’s record goalscorer with 42 goals. At 35, he may no longer be so prolific, but he still have the knack for scoring goals.