Getting close to the end here, but we still have two groups left to cover, starting with Group G.
This is it, the last stand for Belgium's golden generation. This is a team that is literally overflowing with creative talent, with players like Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens, Thibaut Courtois, and many more. They have played together in a couple of tournaments now, and never really succeeded, reaching the quarter finals in the 2016 Euros as their best placement (eliminated by Wales!). This is their time, all or nothing, make it or break it, going balls to the wall. Time to rise up Belgium, a better shot than this will not open up for a long time.
So Belgium has a pretty good amount of good metal bands out there, because when you think about Belgium, metal does not seem to be that big over there. Well, a bunch of bands are here to prove us wrong, starting with the highly respected death/grindcore band Aborted, who in their 20+ years of existence have piled up a good number of releases (9, with a 10th on the way), and quite a reputation. Does not seem like the rest of the country caught on though, since the rest of the higher profiled bands are all over the place, genre wise.
We got some black metal from Enthroned and Ancient Rites, some power from Iron Mask and Magic Kingdom, some doom from Thurisaz, Pantheist, and Amenra, and then we also have some speed metal from my personal favourites Evil Invaders. If you still have not listened to their last year sophomore record "Feed Me Violence", you should, it is some fantastic high quality speed metal. So yeah, Belgium is surprisingly diverse, but not too deep. Still, there are some bands out the wings trying to break through, and with a little luck, they might.
Every tournament is the same for the country where football was born. Everyone has some doubt in the team before the tournament, which eventually turns into extreme cockiness when the team starts off well. And then they usually get eliminated on penalties, probably against the Germans. It is an seemingly endless cycle that Gareth Southgate and his young squad is going to try to break, and while a couple of positions are pretty thin, there is certainly quality to go around. The magnificent goal scorer Harry Kane leads the charge, together with a lot of Tottenham team mates (Alli, Dier, Trippier, Rose), a bunch of speedy guys (Sterling, Walker), and a Harry Maguire, who watched the national team in the 2016 Euros as a fan. As always, it will be mighty interesting to see this England squad, even if it might disappoint you in the end.
Just like with football, England is where metal was born, with bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest leading the hard working middle class to the magic of heavy music. England is still a big power in metal, and the growth is still good, so I am just gonna name a bunch of bands (like I did with Sweden and Germany in group H), and leave it at that.
So we got Anathema, Cradle of Filth, Paradise Lost, Porcupine Tree, My Dying Bride, Carcass, DragonForce, Alestorm, Napalm Death, Venom, Anaal Nathrakh, Saxon, Rainbow, Electric Wizard, King Crimson, Haken, Evile, TesseracT, Sylosis, Threshold, Gloryhammer, Bring Me The Horizon, Killing Joke, Hell, Slugdge, SikTh, Satan, and... *gulp* Asking Alexandria. Probably missed a few, but you can remind me if I did.
Also, not counting Bullet For My Valentine because they are from Wales (would not be surprised if any of the bands I mentioned were too though, once again, feel free to correct me).
It is always fun to see a small nation get into the World Cup, but if I have to be honest, I do not think Panama deserved it. Sure, they have a ton of heart, and did a lot of work to reach this stage, but they had a couple of lucky breaks along the way, like team USA performing really poorly, and getting a goal that was clearly not a goal. Still, I do not think Panama will have much in this competition to do, but they are probably just happy to be here, maybe hoping to score a goal or two, maybe even steal a point. Glad to have you guys here.
So, not surprisingly, the metal scene in Panama is not very big as well. What is curious though is that there seems to be three different types of bands from here. Bands that never really got any footing to begin with (just releasing demos or EPs), bands that started out in the 90's or early 00's, but eventually died off, and bands that has just started their journey. Not a lot of consistency here, as you could probably tell, with no band having a steady release flow or developed fan base. I still picked out three recently active bands for you guys to check out, the thrash metal band Atrofia, the heavy metal band Still Louder, and power metal band Valkeryon, all are decent bands that probably will speak to some of you, so some hope are still there for Panama's metal scene, even if it is not much to behold.
North Africa certainly had a good qualifier, with 3 of the 5 African teams here coming from that region. Out of the three (the remaining being Egypt and Morocco), Tunisia might be the weakest team, but they still have a good amount of technical skill that should keep them from being pushovers. The key for their success might be the defence, since the road to the play off will have to go through Belgium and England. Are they organized enough to make such a feat happen? I doubt it, but I would be glad if I am wrong.
While there is no star in their national team, they do have a band that every Tunisian can look up to. The oriental prog metal band Myrath is the clear leading force for Tunisian metal, and all of their four studio effort are a big proof of that. This is an excellent band that might have been in the shadows of Orphaned Land a little too long, but they deserve their credit, so go listen to them right now.
It definitely seems like Progressive metal is the jam of Tunisia, because there are a bunch of these bands here. Some of the better ones out there are Brood of Hatred, Lost Insen, and Nawather, and all of them are just in the beginning of their careers, and have their own special touch. I also wanna mention the symphonic group Persona and the doom/death band Omination, two completely different bands that also are just in the starting stages. Tunisian metal is certainly on the uprise.
Thoughts on group
England is the juggernaut here, no question about that. The rest is kind of middle of the road, even if Belgium has some fire power to throw at you. Definitely not my favourite group, at least when it comes to overall stability.
Reaction on competition
England and Belgium through... what a shocker!!!