Southgate warns against writing off Tunisia and Panama

Southgate warns against writing off Tunisia and Panama

Speaking after Friday's slick ceremony at the Kremlin, the England manager admitted he was relieved to have avoided the likes of Brazil but said his team will face a "fascinating" challenge against Group G rivals Tunisia, Panama and top seeds Belgium.

"I've said before that, for me, success would be that we come back and the country is proud of what we've done, and that will mean we've played in a certain way, conducted ourselves in a certain way but I would imagine we'd also have had to win a few games because otherwise they won't be very proud", Southgate told ITV News.

"I think we haven't had a clear captaincy figure for a little while and I think we could have jumped into a decision and not given other people the chance to step forward and do the things they've done".

That could be seen as a match to decide the victor of the group, but, with England having finished second in a group containing United States, Slovenia and Algeria in 2010, before failing to get out of a group also boasting Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica in 2014, Southgate feels a team that lost to Iceland in last 16 of the European Championship a year ago can ill-afford to look beyond any opponent.

They will play their first game against Tunisia in Volgograd on 18 June, the fifth day of the tournament. We've got to remember where we are starting from with this group of young players.

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"The World Cup is not about who are favourites, it's about the preparation and that starts now".

Jan Vertonghen
INSTAGRAM The Belgian defender looked less than impressed at being drawn alongside England

But the matches against Tunisia and England will be particularly evocative for their coach Hernan Dario Gomez.

"We know the English team, we have nothing to lose".

"Tunisia and Panama, we have to do more research on", he said.

Panama recently held Wales to a 1-1 draw in a Cardiff friendly and Gomez believes that match showed that his team can potentially compete with Gareth Southgate's side.

"Our last two tournaments have been a disappointment".

But asked if he feared any of their players, he quipped: "The only risky player is Messi!"

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