At first glance, Group G looks like something that is very competitive. And it might well be, between the first two teams, that is. Although it’s not likely we are going to see a “final four” team out of this grouping, it is almost a foregone conclusion which of these four is going to make it through to the Round of 16.
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The only team here that really accomplished something four years ago was Belgium, who made it to the quarterfinals before losing 1-0 to Argentina. Mark Wilmots was the coach; that is, until they did poorly in Euro 2016, then Roberto Martinez got the nod and took the team through qualifying.
Belgium has the best player in this group in Eden Hazard, who can stake his claim as one of the world elite with a big tournament performance. He is well known to fans of the Premier League, where he has played six seasons for Chelsea. Hazard, however, might not even be the most talented player on his own team. Kevin De Bruyne, when he’s on his game, ranks among the very finest in the world. But he has yet to really strike it big in international competition. And there have been personality conflicts with Martinez, who needs him and hopes to accommodate him.
Belgium isn’t going to lack for offensive ability. However, there are some questions about the back line. Vincent Kompany, who is the captain at Manchester City, has been a mainstay for years, and the Belgian side hopes that he’ll have one more big effort left in him. If he does, that makes life easier for Thibault Courtois, the 6-6 goalkeeper who is definitely one of the world’s best. Belgium is -1110 to advance past the Group G stage, and -138 to win the group, not to mention +995 (almost 10-1) to win the whole tournament, according to the World Cup betting odds at VietBet.
England is always an interesting proposition, and of course, there are going to be some questions about this squad after being eliminated in the group stage four years ago. The coach they intended to go forward with, Sam Allardyce, got caught up in a scandal and had to step down, putting Gareth Southgate, who played on England’s 1998 World Cup team that made it to the Round of 16, in the position of becoming head coach in a hurry. Wayne Rooney retired from international competition, and Harry Kane, coming off an ankle injury, is someone this team may not be able to count on 100%. The young prospective superstar to watch here is 20-year-old Marcus Rashford, who campaigns for Manchester United. The goalkeeping is somewhat unproven, and defense might be the area that trips England up when it comes time for the knockout phase. They are -730 to advance out of the group and +140 to be the group winner.
Panama isn’t really ready to make a move. They are in the 32-team Finals field for the first time ever, and it’s tough to give them a big endorsement after they won only three of 10 games in qualifying. Certainly Hernan Dario Gomez, who previously brought Ecuador and Colombia to the World Cup, deserves a lot of credit for doing a lot with very little. But the “very little” part is likely going to keep this team from getting past the group stage. At VietBet, they are priced at +990 to advance, and +4990 to win Group G.
Tunisia switched coaches during qualifying, and they are currently headed by Nabil Maaloul, who was trying to leave Kuwait into the Cup through qualifying, before that team was DQ’ed. They found it very hard to recruit good players with dual citizenship, but if you are going to watch anybody, take a look at Youssef Msakni, who scored three goals in the ultimate qualifying game that got this team to Russia. Obviously they are a long shot – priced at +1765 to advance and +430 to win the group.
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