Belgium favourites in World Cup group, says England boss Gareth Southgate

England manager Gareth Southgate at the World Cup draw

England manager Gareth Southgate at the World Cup draw

ENGLAND were handed a favourable draw for the 2018 World Cup in Russian Federation yesterday after being chosen to face Belgium, Panama and Tunisia in Group G.

At one stage there was a 50-50 chance of either Brazil or Germany but host Gary Lineker joked that Maradona was good with his hands and so it proved once more, the Argentina legend only drawing England with two balls to go.

They will play their first game against Tunisia in Volgograd on 18 June, the fifth day of the tournament.

They will then travel to Nizhny Novgorod on June 24 to take on Panama, with their final group fixture against Belgium on June 28 in Kaliningrad.

Recent World Cups have seen England fail to defeat the likes of the United States, Algeria and Costa Rica in the group stages and that is the risk that comes with facing Tunisia and Panama. "But also not being fearful of what might happen is an important balance to find".

In the other groups, Euro 2016 winners Portugal face Spain, Morocco and Iran.

Argentina's Group D is one of the tougher pools, they will compete against Croatia, first-timers Iceland and familiar foes Nigeria.

Roberto Martinez laughs when it is put to him that he has such a talented group of players with Belgium that, as a club team, they would win the Premier League.

"It is a game where there are no secrets - no secrets about Belgium from England or for us about the England team".

When asked about England's chances of winning the tournament, World Cup victor Gordon Banks said: "If they start straightaway, getting some results, playing pretty well, then they'll stand a chance". The World Cup will begin on June 14, 2018, and end on July 15, 2018. England is in Pot 2.

Belgium have beaten England only once in 21 meetings - back in 1936 - but the side that boasts Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku is a fearsome beast.

The former Everton manager said the match was likely to present a problem at home. "I don't know who she will support".

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