Houston Chronicle - - SOCCER -

Pre­dicted order of fin­ish: Bel­gium, Eng­land, Tu­nisia, Panama.

Out­look: If ev­ery­thing is work­ing prop­erly, third-ranked Bel­gium could win the whole darn thing. The ros­ter rocks: Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Thibaut Cour­tois, Manch­ester City’s Vin­cent Kom­pany (should he re­cover in time from a groin in­jury) and Kevin De Bruyne, Manch­ester United’s Romelu Lukaku and Napoli’s Dries Mertens.

Eng­land has al­ways car­ried an over­size mys­tique. Aside from runs to the semi­fi­nals of the 1990 World Cup and 1996 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship, Eng­land has failed to reach the quar­ter­fi­nals in eight of the past 12 ma­jor com­pe­ti­tions.

Is some­thing spe­cial brew­ing this sum­mer? Eh. Harry Kane posted 30 goals for Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur this sea­son — sec­ond in the Premier League to Liver­pool’s Mohamed Salah — and Manch­ester City’s Ra­heem Ster­ling is a men­ac­ing for­ward.

Tu­nisia re­turns to the World Cup after miss­ing two tour­na­ments, but with top scorer Youssef Msakni side­lined with a knee in­jury, the out­look is grim. Mid­fielder Wahbi Khazri is the ring­leader.

By beat­ing out the United States, Panama joined Ice­land as the tour­na­ment’s only first-time par­tic­i­pants. The ros­ter fea­tures six MLS play­ers, in­clud­ing Seat­tle de­fender Ro­man Tor­res, and seven who pre­vi­ously played in the U.S.-Cana­dian league.

JOHN THYS / AFP/Getty Im­ages

Eden Hazard is among a tal­ent-laden ros­ter for Bel­gium.

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