2018 World Cup: Group G Betting Guide
Group G is one of the most stratified in World Cup history as the line between the top two and bottom two is clearly defined. England and Belgium should breeze through their first two opponents. Unfortunately for Panama and Tunisia, it should be a quick trip to Russia.
Let's get to it.
Tunisia to score under 2.5 goals in the tourney (8/11): Tunisia have scored two goals in each of their last two matches, but they scored only one against both Iran and Costa Rica in March and were blanked by Libya before that. They are also without their star as Youssef Msakni is out of the competition with a knee injury. Manager Nabil Maloul has likened the loss of Msakni to Argentina playing without Lionel Messi. Msakni is the creative force of the Tunisia attack. Their attack will now rely on Sunderland's Wahbi Khazri and two players who made their debut for Tunisia in March, putting them in a brutal spot with two of their group stage matches coming against the strong squads of England and Belgium.
Belgium and England dual forecast to advance (1/7): Belgium's 72.02% probability of winning the group is the third-highest, per our numbers. England have a 62.0% chance of finishing second in the group, which is the highest second-place probability of any team. Belgium's team is full of fire power and talent with Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, and Romelu Lukaku, just to name a few. England have had recent success of shutting down powerhouse nations with a 3-5-2 formation. There is simply a large talent divide in this group that is evident on paper and will likely be confirmed after the second group matchday.
Panama to finish bottom (8/13): Panama have failed to win four of their last five matches, including a 6-0 loss to Switzerland. They scored a total of one goal in those six matches. Their best player is 32-year-old defender Roman Torres. Blas Perez, a 37-year-old forward, is talented, yet aging and temperamental. Luis Tejada, Panama's joint all-time leading scorer, plays his club football in Peru. This is Panama's first World Cup, and they qualified after two results went their way on the last day of CONCACAF qualifying. Our nERD metric has them as the tourney's worst team.
Group G tricast: Belgium, England, Tunisia (23/10): This one does not need a lot of explanation given the information above. England did bring young talent -- like Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Marcus Rashford, and Trent Alexander-Arnold -- who may serve as just backups. Many of the stars such as Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane may still have their best years ahead of them. When Belgium and England meet on the last group matchday, they may play it safe because there's not a huge difference between Round-of-16 opponents for the two who advance from this group as Group H isn't the strongest. Tunisia will likely focus on the next chance at qualifying in a few years and take on Panama with pride on the line.
Belgium to score four or more goals against Tunisia (4/1): Group G is the favorite to be the group with the most goals scored, according to Paddy Power, and that most likely stems from oddsmakers expecting Belgium and England to roll when they face Tunisia and Panama. Belgium scored 43 goals in 10 qualifiers and were held below two goals only once. Belgium were held without a goal by Portugal, but they outscored Saudi Arabia and Egypt by a combined 7-0 in recent warm-up matches. In a recent friendly, Tunisia just gave up two goals to a 10-man Turkey side that is not even in the World Cup. Belgium sit third in our rankings to win the World Cup after reaching the quarterfinals in 2014, and they're one of the tourney favorites, with our models giving them the third-best odds (9.33%) to win it all.
Panama to be the lowest scoring team in the tourney (17/2): Panama may be the third-oldest team in the competition, but they are inexperienced on this stage. Many of their defenders make their home in MLS, and many of the club teams for the rest of the roster are unrecognizable to most fans. All of their best goal-scoring performances dating back to July 2017 have come against nations that failed to qualify for the World Cup. October 10, 2017 was the last time they beat a team that is in this World Cup field as they notched a 2-1 win over Costa Rica. Panama qualifying for the tournament makes for a wonderful story, but it should be a long few weeks in Russia.