England fans may claim they have dropped their expectations ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Russia but anything less than six points from the Three Lions opening two matches of the tournament, against Tunisia and Panama, will disappoint them intensely.
That does not feel unreasonable, no matter the dearth of English talent in the Premier League or the youthfulness of the squad Gareth Southgate has elected to take to the tournament.
However, Tunisia may prove tough opposition in that notoriously tense opening game, as they showed by coming from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with European champions Portugal on Monday night.
The Portuguese were shorn of talisman Cristiano Ronaldo but one man who stood out was combative midfielder Ellyes Skhiri, who plays his club football in France with Montpellier and lined up in the centre of the park in Tunisia’s 4-4-2.
He is likely to be in and around Dele Alli, who is as likely as anyone to be the most advanced of England’s midfielders on June 18 and his five tackles and six interceptions showed his ability to stifle even elite talents such as Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva.
His passing was tidy enough, with an 86% success rate to go with his one block and solitary foul. With Tunisia ranked just one place below England in the world rankings, flawed as they are, and Skhiri’s performance show that they are not a nation to be underestimated.