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A guide to England's group opponents Tunisia and Panama

A closer look at the lesser-known sides in England’s World Cup group.

England will hope their World Cup showdown with Belgium in Kaliningrad on June 28 will determine which of the sides progress to the last 16 as Group G winners.

However if that is to prove the case, they will have to emerge from their clashes with Tunisia and Panama with positive results.

Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at the group’s lesser-known teams.

How they qualified

Tunisia

An unbeaten record in African Group A saw Tunisia secure their place in Russia as they edged out DR Congo by a single point. A 2-1 home victory over their closest rivals in a quartet which also included Guinea and Libya proved key, although their place was ultimately clinched by a 0-0 draw with the Libyans in their final qualifier.

Panama

Panama earned their spot in Russia by finishing in third place behind Mexico and Costa Rica, holding off the challenge of Honduras and the United States in the process. A 4-0 defeat by the US in Orlando on October 6 left them facing an uphill battle, but goals from Blas Perez and Roman Torres saw them come from behind to beat Costa Rica at home four days later and go through on goal difference.

World Cup record

Tunisia

Tunisia will be appearing at their fifth World Cup and hoping to emerge from the group stage for the first time. They previously made it on to the big stage in 1978, 1998, 2002 and 2006, collecting just a single point on each of the last three occasions, but missing out on qualification by a single point in Argentina after beating Mexico and drawing with Germany to finish third in their group.

Panama

The Central Americans will be making their first appearance at the World Cup. They missed out on a CONCACAF/Oceania play-off clash with New Zealand with a place at the last tournament up for grabs when they conceded twice in injury time to lose 3-2 to the United States in their last qualifier.

Key players

Tunisia

Wahbi Khazri is coach Nabil Maaloul’s star man. Khazri, who shone for Sunderland in the Premier League under former boss Sam Allardyce, spent last season on loan at French club Rennes, where he scored 11 goals as the club finished fifth in Ligue 1, and his potency and invention could prove key in the absence of injured Al Duhail striker Youssef Msakni.

Panama

Striker Perez is Panama’s talisman having amassed more than 100 caps and played his part in four qualifying campaigns. The 37-year-old shares the title of the country’s top all-time goalscorer with fellow frontman Luis Tejada, who is known as “El Matador”.

Past meetings with England

Eng_Scholes_Celeb.jpg
England’s Paul Scholes (right) celebrates his goal against Tunisia with (l/r) Alan Shearer, Graeme Le Saux, and Sol Campbell (Adam Butler/PA)

Tunisia

It took a late header from Steve Bull to spare England’s blushes when the sides met for the first time in the run-up to the 1990 finals after Abdelhamid Hergal had capitalised on an error by Paul Gascoigne to beat goalkeeper Peter Shilton from distance. However, there were no such difficulties for an England side which included current manager Gareth Southgate in their opening fixture at the 1998 finals in Marseille when goals from Alan Shearer and Paul Scholes secured a 2-0 victory.

Panama

England and Panama will be meeting for the first time when they take the field at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on June 24.

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