After four action packed opening days, day five sees European giants take centre stage as Sweden, Belgium and England get their campaigns underway. 

Sweden v South Korea

In a competitive Group F with Germany and Mexico, victory here is imperative for both sides’ hopes of progressing to the knockout stages.

These teams have met before on three occasions but never competitively till now, with the last two meetings both ending in draws during 2005. 

Both sides however enter this in poor form so don’t expect much action. 

Sweden have taken just one win from six friendlies in 2018, drawing three and losing two. Two of those draws came in last two friendlies against Denmark and Peru when both finished 0-0. 

South Korea meanwhile have lost four games across same period, earning just one win and draw apiece.

Their only clean sheet came in the draw when held Bolivia 0-0 at start of month.

Prediction wise, I can’t see this being a thriller and a 0-0 wouldn’t come as any surprise but I can see Sweden just edging it here ahead of a major showdown with Germany on Saturday evening, where a Sweden win would potentially dump the reigning champions out. 

Prediction: Sweden 1-0 South Korea

 

Belgium v Panama

De Bruyne

Can Kevin de Bruyne guide Belgium to an easy victory over Panama?

Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ enter this match as favourites against Panama, who are making their World Cup bow here. 

There is no previous history between these teams and Panama’s manager – Hernan Gomez made his last World Cup appearance in 2002, managing Ecuador to a group stage exit. 

Recent form definitely will play a factor because Panama have conceded seven in last four matches whilst netting once. 

Belgium meanwhile have scored 11 goals in that same period and conceded just once, last time out against Costa Rica. 

If that contrast in form translates onto pitch,, we should see a routing dished out by a Belgium side containing Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne amongst others.

Prediction: Belgium 4-0 Panama. 

 

Tunisia v England

Southgate

Gareth Southgate will want to get England’s campaign off to a flier with victory over Tunisia.

Unlike past tournaments, England are under no pressure to deliver here but will be favourites against Tunisia.

Gareth Southgate has brought a very youthful squad to Russia but face a Tunisia side who likes to play the exact same way that England do in moving ball from back to front. 

Conquering that will be a problem but this England squad have played under various different formations such as 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3, so any mid-match tactical line-up changes shouldn’t affect them too much. 

Add in England’s unbeaten World Cup record against African teams, including their last meeting against Tunisia 20 years ago at 1998 World Cup then this should be a fairly simple opening match.

There however is one issue in that England haven’t scored more than once in last nine games at a World Cup. 

Tunisia however have kept just one clean sheet across 12 matches at this tournament, so I can see England ending their World Cup goal-scoring struggles here in a scrappy match.

Prediction: Tunisia 0-2 England 

 

 

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