Sunday, 17 December, 2017

Favourable World Cup draws for Russian Federation and England

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Dexter Carr | 03 December, 2017, 01:08

"We want to go to the World Cup to enjoy our football and to enjoy the responsibility of having such a strong generation".

"The key to qualification is going to be the first match, on 18 June, against England", Maaloul told BBC Sport. But with a group of emerging young players to complement the likes of Harry Kane, Eric Dier, John Stones and Raheem Sterling, England certainly possess the quality and depth to target a quarterfinal spot at least. "We are expecting a very hard match".

"Yes, a couple of them had a taste of it at the last tournament, but many of them will not feel that weight and burden that a lot of the players have carried over a good few tournaments over the years".

The Three Lions were handed one of the easiest draws in the competition, on paper, with Belgium, Tunisia and Panama joining England in Group G.

"It's a hard group but we were expecting a hard draw because if you are in Pot 3, you are going to have some great footballing nations - like Belgium and England". We've even dared to look as far as the knockout stages, and at who might end up sending them home. We can't just have one captain and rely on them.

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France, Australia, Peru and Denmark make up Group C, with Group D perhaps the closest to a so-called "group of death" as it contains Argentina, Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria.

In 1978, Tunisia became the first African nation to ever win a match at a World Cup when beating Mexico 3-1 in Argentina. I asked God to avoid putting is in the first group because Ramadan finishes on June 14-15.

However, Maaloul - who is in his second stint as Tunisia coach after a brief spell in charge in 2013 - believes his side can correct that unwanted statistic.

"It is the key game for us, and I think if we can get a positive result there we have every chance of qualifying", added Maaloul. "But if we do not beat Panama and Tunisia, we should start again!"

"We have a great chance", said the former worldwide, who played for Tunisia between 1982-1994.

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