But Southgate, recalling England's decades of disappointment on the global stage, was wary of Panama, telling the BBC: "We've been good at writing teams off and then getting beat. It is the key game for us, and I think if we can get a positive result there we have every chance of qualifying", added Maaloul.
England's opener is against Tunisia, now ranked 27th, in Volgograd on June 18, with the game against 56th-ranked Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on June 24.
In the previous World Cup, Costa Rica qualified from a group containing England, Italy and Uruguay, while just over a year ago the Iceland humiliation occurred during Euro 2016.
With the top two teams in each pool going through to the second round, Belgium and England will be huge favourites to make it out of Group G.
Former England worldwide Southgate played against Tunisia at France 98. "It was a fantastic day and it's nice to be able to relive that".
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The draw stirred fond memories for Southgate of playing for England against Tunisia at France 98, a match they won 2-0. We will come up against big teams, strong teams.
"It's a really exciting draw, for everybody". I'm really looking forward to getting on with it now. You're never quite sure how many points you need for that and there will be ups and downs along the way I'm sure.
Speaking to talkSPORT following the World Cup draw, the 47-year-old said: "If you look at the groups, because of the seeding you get two teams in the top 15/20 in the rankings and then a couple of teams who aren't in there".
Gareth Southgate has stressed that England "cannot go to a World Cup and not try to win it". "To lead my country there as a manager is beyond that".
With Belgium able to call upon Premier League stars such as Chelsea's Eden Hazard, Manchester City's Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku at Manchester United, they are now ranked fifth in the world, 10 places higher than England.
"You can't ask for a better draw", Waddle told the BBC.