England’s World Cup Group Stage Chances!

It’s only 27 days until England get their World Cup campaign underway against Tunisia in Volgograd. They then face Panama six days later, followed by a crunch meeting with Belgium to close the group.

We take a look at how they might fare based on their record against similar sides.


England’s only previous meeting with the Tunisians came twenty years ago when Glenn Hoddle’s side won 2-0 in their opening game at France 98. Alan Shearer nodded them in front before a late Paul Scholes goal put some gloss on the scoreline.

However, the Three Lions’ recent record against African opposition isn’t great in the World Cup group stages. A dismal 0-0 draw was played out against Morocco in South Africa eight years ago, while Sven Goran Eriksson’s side also had to be content with a scoreless draw with Nigeria in 2002. Bobby Robson’s 1986 vintage also played out a bore draw with the Moroccans.

You have to hark back to 1990 for a group stage win over African opposition, when a Mark Wright goal secured the points against Egypt. Meanwhile, England have only won two of their last seven opening matches at a World Cup finals.

History suggests that England should keep a clean sheet, but it could be tighter than many expect. England to win and Under 2.5 Goals is 21/10.

Panama starting eleven

Los Canaleros will make their World Cup debut in Russia, an achievement which sparked a national holiday in the country. Their outright odds of 1000/1 to win the tournament suggest they’ll be whipping boys but England haven’t always had it their own way against qualifiers from the CONCACAF region.

Their last two tournaments have seen stalemates against Costa Rica and the United States but they did beat Trinidad & Tobago 2-0 on their way to the 2006 quarter-finals. Prior to that they recorded possibly their worst-ever result – until Iceland two years ago, perhaps – when falling to an infamous 1-0 defeat to the States in Belo Horizonte in 1950. In their second games at the group stages, England have also just won two of their last seven.

Panama are probably at a level more akin to Trinidad & Tobago in 2006 than England’s last two CONCACAF opponents so a perfunctory victory – and clean sheet – should be expected.


Belgium go into the game as 11/8 favourites and any country that can leave the likes of Radja Nainggolan at home are not to be underestimated.

The sides last met in the tournament at Italia 90, when a late, late David Platt goal in extra-time secured the Three Lions a quarter-final meeting with Cameroon. Of course, the Belgian side those days wasn’t as star-studded as this year’s vintage although it did include the likes of Enzo Scifo and Jan Ceulemans.

Again, England’s group stage record against other European sides is quite poor. They’ve won only one of their last seven and that came against Slovenia in 2010. Their last two defeats were both 2-1, against Italy in Brazil and Romania in France 98. A similar scoreline this time around wouldn’t be a great surprise, with Belgium to win and both teams to score currently 7/2.

On a more positive note, England have won four and drawn three of their last seven group stages ties although they’ve generally come against less formidable opponents than the current Belgian squad.

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