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Belgium favourites in World Cup group, says England boss Gareth Southgate

Belgium favourites in World Cup group, says England boss Gareth Southgate

Danger lurked throughout the 32-team draw for the World Cup but England avoided the toughest opposition as they were drawn, by Diego Maradona, in Group G alongside Belgium, Tunisia and the World Cup debutants Panama.

Speaking to talkSPORT following the World Cup draw, the 47-year-old said: "If you look at the groups, because of the seeding you get two teams in the top 15/20 in the rankings and then a couple of teams who aren't in there".

"It was a brilliant occasion so to be leading the country out into that same occasion, the first game of the World Cup, I am hugely proud".

"What's exciting for our team is, although we lack some big match experience and we don't have at the moment trophies and medals on the table for a lot of the lads, I think that's all ahead for them and what's possible is exciting".

"At the last World Cup, Costa Rica went through instead of us and Italy, and then, in the last Europeans, we know what happened with Iceland (at Euro 2016)".

Gareth Southgate has stressed that England "cannot go to a World Cup and not try to win it". "Their coach has an embarrassment of riches", Maaloul said of Roberto Martinez's team.




That game, the pair's last in the group, is in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland, and takes place on June 28. Our game against England will be a good measurement for both nations.

During their time in Russia England's base will be at Repino, an hour's drive from St Petersburg, a quiet area surrounded by forest.

There will be eight groups of four, with one team from four separates post being drawn together.

Starting on the tournament's fifth day will also give Southgate longer to prepare after the Premier League season, although Tunisia's manager Nabil Maaloul pointed out this also helps his team as it means they do not have to play while fasting for Ramadan.

Tunisia and England will meet in their opening game in Volgograd on June 18, a repeat of the 1998 World Cup group stage, when England won 2-0 in their first match in Marseille.

"Being involved in that game - the colour and the atmosphere around it - was one of the best days of my life", he said. "To lead my country there as a manager is beyond that".

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