England can have no excuses for not winning their group after being handed the perfect World Cup draw, says Charlie Nicholas.
Gareth Southgate’s men will open against Tunisia before taking on debutants Panama and then top seeds Belgium, with their tournament odds trimmed from 20/1 to 16/1 by Sky Bet.
And, after the favourable draw, Nicholas insists England must approach the tournament with more attacking intent than displayed in qualifying and recent friendlies.
“If you asked me to pick an easiest draw this would have probably been it,” he told Sky Sports. “As an England fan or player, you have to fancy your chances of winning the group.
“It is a very good group for them, no doubt about that, and the fact they are playing Belgium in the last game is another big positive.
“Southgate can afford to be bold and go after Tunisia and Panama. When you get to major tournaments you’ve got to take the advantage of these positions from the start to build momentum.
“The toughest part is the first game because Southgate, by nature, is a cautious manager. It is tailor-made for being bold and brash, but I’m not convinced Gareth is that type.”
Nicholas insists Belgium are not a side England should be fearing, despite an impressive qualifying campaign which saw them drop just two points and register a plus 37 goal difference.
“Belgium are over-rated,” he added. “They’ve got talent, absolutely no doubt about that, but I’m not sure how they accumulated such a good ranking. What have they achieved? Nothing.
“They’ve got many fine players but they’ve proved nothing and they are very beatable. There’s no record of success, just talent, but a lot of teams have talent.
“If you look at what they have and what you’d be concerned about – Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku – we know all of their players well and I don’t think there’s much difference between Belgium and England.”