England face Tunisia in their opening game at the 2018 World Cup on June 18 aiming to put their disappointments at recent major tournaments firmly behind them.
The Three Lions haven’t reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup since 2006 and they were knocked out in Brazil four years ago without winning a game.
A humiliating defeat against Iceland at the European Championships in 2016 has left fan expectations at an all-time low, although that could work in England’s favour this summer.
England are priced at 2/5 to win the game, with Tunisia on offer at 8/1 and the draw available at 10/3, but check out these Tunisia v England tips before wagering on the outcome.
Gareth Southgate’s side breezed through the qualifiers and they are unbeaten in five friendlies since then.
England were criticised for some aspects of their performance during Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Nigeria, but there were certainly positives to be taken from the game.
Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling looked lively up front, with Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli sharp in behind them.
Southgate selected Eric Dier ahead of Jordan Henderson against Nigeria, but the Tottenham midfielder did little to accelerate his case to start against Tunisia.
It was pleasing to see the England boss pick a more attack-minded midfield and he will hopefully take that into his World Cup squad selection.
Henderson has improved under Jurgen Klopp this season and although he got a chasing in the Champions League final against Real Madrid he has done enough this season to get the nod in the opening game in Russia.
Nigeria’s early second goal apart, England looked solid enough in defence and Reds’ youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold may find his opportunities limited this summer.
Like England, Tunisia were also unbeaten in qualifying and they have maintained that record since then. Recent draws against Portugal and Turkey prove that it would be unwise to underestimate the African side.
Youssef Msakni scored three goals during qualifying to add to the 25 he bagged this season for club side Al Duhail in the Qatar League.
The two sides have met once previously at the World Cup finals, with goals by Alan Shearer and Paul Scholes securing a 2-0 victory at France 1998.
Thursday’s friendly against Costa Rica will be the last chance for players to stake their claim for a starting role against Tunisia.
Harry Maguire and Gary Cahill are probably competing for one spot in defence, while Kieran Trippier is expected to have the edge over Alexander-Arnold at wing-back. Alli and Lingard’s performances against Nigeria raised hopes that Southgate would adopt an attacking strategy in the opening game, leaving Henderson and Dier battling for the defensive midfield role.
Henderson will start against Costa Rica having had an extended break following the Champions League final. A solid display on Thursday should see him book his place in the starting XI against Tunisia.