Panama and Tunisia will lock horns in the final match of Group G, and by this stage each team will have an idea of whether they will be still alive in the tournament. Both nations will have already taken on England and Belgium in what can only be described as David vs Goliath type fixtures, and if, as expected, the European nations are successful, this game will have only statistical value.
Still, there is plenty to play for regardless of whether our initial predictions are correct. Tunisia came into this World Cup with just one win from twelve matches, and unless they can produce a stunning upset against their northern neighbours they will surely be looking at lowly Panama to provide just their second win at the competition.
Panama too are extremely unlikely to have picked up any points so far, and will see the Tunisian match as a tough but winnable fixture. They will have arrived at the World Cup full of fanfare, and are likely to be every neutral fan’s second team, which could make a small difference.
There is very little usable historical data when looking ahead to this match. Both teams have played just a handful of matches against teams from their opponent’s confederation, and of course they have never met in an organised match. Tunisia have plenty of World Cup matches to analyse, yet the last World Cup they played in was over a decade ago, and they have arguably faced no opponent as unfancied as Panama.
We have disregarded context in this match simply because we find it so unlikely that either nation will have picked up points. In the event that one team has stolen a draw against England or Belgium, they should be counted upon to win this match given that their opponent will likely have nothing to play for. For that reason, it’s always worthwhile waiting until the last possible minute to place a wager on a final group match.
In terms of the odds, Tunisia enter the match as favourites, which is unsurprising considering that they outrank their opponents considerably according to the official FIFA standings. Yet each side are relatively close in the head to head market – Panama start as outsiders at +229, while the draw is available for +216 and Tunisia are on offer for +128. This will definitely change as the match approaches, so watch for fluctuations.
Without much to consider here, it’s a bit of a coin toss. We’re only leaning towards Panama for the simple reason that their flair may be enough to break down a Tunisian outfit not known for goal-scoring themselves. In a match with little relevance to the overall tournament, we would back the Central Americans to get the job done. Our pick is a 3-1 win to Panama.
When: Thursday, June 28 (2pm ET)
Where: Mordovia Arena, Saransk
TV: FS1, Telemundo*