England starts with no big expectations

Brenda Watkins
June 19, 2018

Southgate believes England's players are as prepared, focused and ready as they can be for their eagerly anticipated World Cup opener.

The eyes of the nation will be focused on the Volgograd Arena when Southgate's exciting young side take to the field in their first major tournament match since the humiliating Euro 2016 exit to Iceland.

England doesn't boast of big names this time but there is a sense of bonhomie among the players and in Southgate it has a coach who understands them.

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Friendly wins over Nigeria and Costa Rica did no harm to the mood nor did the fact that, unlike so many times in the past, there is little, if any, controversy surrounding the squad. Tottenham's Eric Dier and Dele All will bolster the midfield, while the star-studded lineup of forwards include the likes of captain Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jamie Vardy, Danny Welbeck and Marcus Rashford. Harry Maguire was given the nod as part of England's central back three alongside John Stones and Kyle Walker, leaving experienced defender Gary Cahill on the bench.

The 1.89m tall player, who plies his trade in the Turkish league, is good at controlling high balls, but if England puts the ball behind Tunisia's defence line, the African outfit could be in trouble.

The teams have met before on the World Cup stage, with England winning 2-0 in the 1998 group stage on goals from Alan Shearer and Paul Scholes. That's part of England's flawless record against African teams at the World Cup - three wins and three draws with five clean sheets. "We have huge pressure given that we represent Africa, we represent the Arab world, and we represent 12 million Tunisians", said Maaloul, whose team will also face third ranked Belgium and Panama during the group stage.

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