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World Cup Group G preview: Has the time
come for Belgium’s golden generation?

BEIJING China (Xinhua) -- After a disappointing quarterfinal defeat to Wales at Euro 2016, Belgium’s golden generation now have another, possibly final chance to fulfill their potential at the 2018 World Cup.

With talents like Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Vincent Kompany on their roster, the Red Devils advanced to Russia with the best squad they have ever had and a record-breaking qualification campaign that saw them win nine out of ten matches and score 43 goals.

However, this golden generation has failed to reach the last eight at the last two major tournaments (the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Euros), leading many to question whether they can surpass the achievement of their predecessors in the 1986 World Cup, when Belgium beat the Soviet Union to reach the semifinals before losing to Maradona’s Argentina.

In fact, there is not much time for them to prove to the world what they can really do.

Key players like Vincent Kompany (32),Jan Vertonghen (31),Toby Alderweireld (29), Mousa Dembele (31), Axel Witsel (29), will all be pushing 33 and beyond by the time the 2022 World Cup comes around.

Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, the brightest stars in the golden generation, will both be 31 by then.

Roberto Martinez, who took over coaching duties for Belgium in the summer of 2016, must inspire his team to click and put up a proper challenge for the title.

Although it is his first time coaching a national team, we know the 44-year-old Spaniard is not afraid of making a controversial decision after he excluded Radja Nainggolan from his squad for the World Cup.

In Martinez’s preferred 3-4-3 shape, the crucial problem is whether De Bruyne and Hazard can fulfill their potential together.

De Bruyne, who is regarded as the new leader of Belgium, scored eight goals and provided 15 assists for a record-breaking Manchester City team this season and a brilliant World Cup would make him a strong competitor for the Ballon d’Or.

Romelu Lukaku will lead the line for Belgium. The 24-year-old is his country’s all-time leading scorer with 33 goals in 66 appearances.

Belgium head into the World Cup ranked third in the world and paired alongside Panama, Tunisia and England in Group G.

The Red Devils should make it into the last 16 without problems.

If they can win Group G ahead of England, Brazil are likely to be waiting for them in the quarterfinals.



World Cup Group G preview: Tunisia aim to impress after long absence

By Sportswriter Yao Youming BEIJING China (Xinhua) -- At the upcoming 2018 World Cup, Tunisia are chasing their second victory in the World Cup, 40 years after they recorded their first win in the tournament.

Considering that the African team will face England and Belgium during the group stages, the Carthage Eagles might need a lot of luck in their fifth World Cup campaign to make that happen.

Tunisia were lucky enough to have avoided African powerhouses on its way to Russia. Facing the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea and Libya in the last stage of the African qualifiers, Tunisia kept an unbeaten record and qualified for Russia 2018 after spearheading their qualification group.

In the warm-ups played recently, Tunisia defeated Iran and Costa Rica, and drew against the European champions Portugal, showing potential of becoming dark horses in Russia.

Nabil Maaloul was appointed as Tunisia’s head coach in April 2017.

Under his guidance, Tunisia have qualified for their first World Cup in 12 years.

The former midfielder has helped the team build up an acute tactical awareness, which has increased the confidence of Tunisian fans that their side can win at least a game in Russia.

Tunisia’s biggest weakness is the lack of superstar who can lead them to victory.

Maaloul announced the team’s 23-man roster after a 2-2 draw with Turkey on June 1.

The squad, dominated by local players, doesn’t include the influential midfielder Youssef Msakni and the Tunisian league’s top scorer Taha Yassine Khenissi, who are both forced out by injuries.

Defender Syam Ben Youssef is now seen as an important figure in the team, as he will have to deal with some of the best attacking talents in the world.

The 1.89m-high player, who plays in Turkish league, is good at controlling high balls, but if England or Belgium put the ball behind Tunisia’s defense line , the Carthage Eagles will be in trouble.

Tunisia’s  only victory in 12 World Cup campaigns came in 1978 when they saw off Mexico to register the first ever win by an African team on the biggest soccer stage.

Considering those powerful competitors in Group G, trying to beat Panama is the most realistic goal for them.



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