No fear of England for Tunisia, Panama

No fear of England for Tunisia, Panama

England will take on the top-ranked nation in their group, Belgium, in their final match on June 28, a schedule that should also favour Southgate's team, says Murphy.

England will open up against Tunisia on June 18.

"That is the most important thing for us".

Next summer's World Cup will begin on June 14, running until July 15.

"It is interesting to be starting slightly later, with what that means at the end of the season". "It could help. We've got to get that period of training and recovery and freshness right". "That needs a bit of working out now".

"Some teams in the past would have seemed a good draw - I'm thinking the likes of Sweden [at the World Cups in 2002 and 2006], but we have a very average record against them and have found it hard to play against them".

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While the logistical challenges are considerable, Southgate admitted his young side will also need to learn how to deal with the expectations placed on them after they were handed a seemingly favourable draw.

England have a tough test against a Belgium side which provides some of the Premier League's best players, including Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Toby Alderweireld.

"They suck in major tournaments".

Poland, Senegal, Colombia and Japan make up Group H.

Yet, if they progress as runners-up, they would in theory be on a collision course to meet Germany in the last eight and then quite possibly Spain or Argentina after that.

In the previous World Cup, Costa Rica qualified from a group containing England, Italy and Uruguay, while just over a year ago the Iceland humiliation occurred during Euro 2016.

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"I go back to the last two tournaments".

"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".

He added: "It would be easy to say there is a certain round and level but the reality is we don't know".

Southgate believes Belgium - managed by Roberto Martinez with Englishman Graeme Jones as his assistant - are among the favourites to win the trophy.

"They are clearly favourites from what we have seen in recent years, with the coach they have, and then second place I honestly think will be between England and us".

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.

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