Belfast Telegraph

England must be ready to roar: Southgate

By Matt Slater

Gareth Southgate accepts that England will expect his side to progress thanks to a favourable draw for Russia 2018, but will be taking nothing for granted after recent disappointments.

Speaking after yesterday's ceremony at the Kremlin, the England manager admitted he was relieved to have avoided the likes of Brazil but said his team will face a "fascinating" challenge against Group G rivals Tunisia, Panama and top seeds Belgium.

"There's one team we know so much about in Belgium - one of the best teams in the world - and two teams we, at the moment, know a lot less about," the 47-year-old said.

"Panama, we've never played, and Tunisia have qualified through the African group, which is strong, so they're to be respected.

"We're the second-ranked team in that group so it's understandable how people will pitch it but, equally, in the last two tournaments we went out to teams we thought we'd beat.

"At the last World Cup, Costa Rica went through instead of us and Italy, and then, in the last Europeans, we know what happened with Iceland (at Euro 2016).

"So we've got to be mentally prepared in those games, not in terms of underestimating them, because I don't think we do that with anybody, but we'll have to handle being the favourites and that's one of the challenges of being an England player."

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