World Cup Draw 2018: Why History Says England Can Be Optimistic With Group G Opponents

England has been drawn against Belgium, Tunisia and Panama in Group G at next year's World Cup in Russia—and history says Gareth Southgate's team can be optimistic.

England was the penultimate team to be picked out of pot two and will face Tunisia in its first game of the tournament on June 18.

Southgate insisted before the draw that England is not willing to "write off" this World Cup despite being in a process of transition. "Our last two tournaments have been a disappointment," Southgate said, as quoted by the BBC.

"Of course, a lot of these players are going to peak in two to four years' time, but we can't just write off the tournament. I don't think anyone in England would accept that."

England Manager Gareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate (R) at the State Kremlin Palace, Moscow, Russia, December 1. Southgate's England was drawn out of pot two for next year's World Cup in Russia. Shaun Botterill/Getty

And they may, in fact, have reason to believe that England can qualify for the knockout stages as group winners. England will play Panama on June 24 in Nizhny Novgorod in what will be the first meeting between the two nations, while the country has only played against Tunisia once.

That game came in the 1998 World Cup in France, when England and Tunisia were both drawn in Group G then as well. Alan Shearer and Paul Scholes scored to give Glenn Hoddle's team a good start to the tournament.

And of the 20 times England and Belgium has met, Belgium has won just once—and that came 81 years ago. England has won 15 of the meetings, but the two nations have only met once in the 21st century.

That came in 2012, long before Belgium's golden generation came of age, when Roy Hodgson was just months into the job. Danny Welbeck scored the only goal of the game at Wembley Stadium to conclude England's preparations for Euro 2012.

History says England should be a force in this group, but history has never been too kind on the Three Lions.

Group A

Russia

Saudi Arabia

Egypt

Uruguay

Group B

Portugal

Spain

Morocco

Iran

Group C

France

Australia

Peru

Denmark

Group D

Argentina

Iceland

Croatia

Nigeria

Group E

Brazil

Switzerland

Costa Rica

Serbia

Group F

Germany

Mexico

Sweden

South Korea

Group G

Belgium

Panama

Tunisia

England

Group H

Poland

Senegal

Colombia

Japan