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England must not write off Tunisia & Panama, Southgate says

England must not write off Tunisia & Panama, Southgate says

"I'm sure at some point we will probably do that, but I like the fact that different people have taken and had to take responsibility", he added. They will then travel to Novgorod to face Panama on 24 June before the final group match against the top seeds Belgium in Kaliningrad on 28 June.

It will be nearly exactly 20 years to the day when England played Tunisia in their opening fixture of the 1998 World Cup, with England winning 2-0 on June 15.

Tunisia will be based just outside Moscow during the tournament, and their coach is also happy at avoiding playing until the fifth day of the competition.

That was the Carthage Eagles' very first game at the finals but they have failed to win any of their 11 World Cup games since - the longest winless run of any team in Russian Federation next year.

"Gareth will be telling the lads, 'We need to be super professional going into them two games, ' he said. You know how important it is for us as Muslims".

"What's exciting for our team is, although we lack some big match experience and we don't have at the moment trophies and medals on the table for a lot of the lads, I think that's all ahead for them and what's possible is exciting".

There could be a positive omen, too, in the Panama manager Hernán Darío Gómez having coached Colombia at France 98 when England beat them 2-0 and David Beckham scored a trademark free-kick from 30 yards. "They were a very good team, but this team is more humble than them".

"We haven't done as much preparing on the African teams yet so now that's what we can focus in on".

Many of those players that take to the pitch will know each other well from playing in the Premier League week in week out, and the two managers will also be accustomed with one another after working as TV pundits together before worldwide management.

Belgium's best World Cup finish came in 1986 when they finished fourth, and Martinez believes this sets them as outsiders for the Jules Rimet trophy.