World Cup Preview - Group B

21.11.2022 09:29:10 Bradley Lobo
Qatar 2022 World Cup sign with Qatar flag image on football

England

The Lowdown

Semi-finalists at the 2018 World Cup and runners up at Euro 2020, the Three Lions will be hoping to go one better and add to their only ever triumph in this competition back in 1966. Breezed through qualifying undefeated in 10 games (W8 D2) but form has dipped in the lead-up to Qatar. Currently winless in 6 matches (D3 L3).

 

The Manager/Style of Play

Gareth Southgate takes charge in his third consecutive international tournament and his results on paper have been impressive, but some England fans remain unconvinced. Favourable draws have helped him, but negative tactics in big matches have hindered his chances of genuine success. Has the talent as his disposal to go all the way but it remains to be seen if he is the man to finally get England over that final hurdle.


The Captain/Key Player

Both roles will be taken up by the talismanic Harry Kane. Top scorer at the last World Cup and joint-second on the list at Euro 2020. Despite that, there was also a sense with him that he didn’t perform in the real crunch games. In typically fine form for Tottenham with 12 goals in 15 Premier League matches so far this season, only behind Erling Haaland in the scoring charts.

 

The One to Watch

Jude Bellingham – one of the most coveted young talents in world football. At 19-years-old, he is already up there with the best box-to-box midfielders on the planet. 9 goals in 22 appearances for Borussia Dortmund this season including 4 goals in 5 Champions League games. Comfortable operating at the highest level.

 

The Verdict

1st - The deepest and most talented squad in Group B by some distance. Should finish top.

 

Iran 

The Lowdown

Making their third consecutive World Cup appearance and sixth overall. Iran’s main aim will be to advance past the group stage for the first time in their history. Made it to Qatar comfortably by topping their group in both the second and third rounds of the Asian qualifiers. 

 

The Manager/Style of Play

Carlos Queiroz – highly experienced manager who twice thrived as an assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and even had a short spell as Real Marid head coach. Managed six different countries and been in the dugout at four World Cups. Qatar 2022 will be his third consecutive finals in two spells with Iran. He was only recently reappointed in September 2022 and didn’t oversee qualification. Known as a defensive coach. Iran have conceded just once in three games (W2 D1) since his return and that was an own-goal.

 

The Captain

Ehsan Hajsafi – the most experienced player in the squad by a fair distance. Well over a century of caps for his country. Fourth on the all-time list. Making his third straight appearance at a World Cup. A left-back by trade but can be trusted in a number of positions.

 

The Key Man

Mehdi Taremi – Iran's Number 9 with 28 goals in 60 caps for his country. Currently showing his ability at the highest level with 5 goals in 5 Champions League games for Porto this season behind only Kylian Mbappe and Mo Salah. Level with Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski and above Lionel Messi. Not bad company.

 

The One to Watch 

Sardar Azmoun – already 3rd in Iran’s all-time leading goalscorers list with 41 goals in 65 caps at just 27-years old. A better strike rate than the legendary Ali Daei. Shockingly retired from international football after criticism he received for his performances at the last World Cup but has since returned and will hope to silence the doubters in Qatar.

 

Verdict

4thWill be difficult to play against and do have a genuine chance of sneaking through the group, but they have the least talented squad on paper.

 

USA 

The Lowdown

USMNT return to the grandest stage for their eleventh World Cup appearance after failing to qualify for Russia 2018. Not the most convincing route to the finals this time around either squeezing through in 3rd place behind Mexico and Canada in CONCACAF Qualifying. Only ahead of Costa Rica on goal-difference. 

 

The Manager/Style of Play

Gregg Berhalter – went to two World Cups with the USA as a player and took charge of his country as manager in 2018. Divides opinion among supporters for his tactics and selection choices.  Their best players overall are in the wide areas, but they lack a clinical goalscorer to finish the chances. Ricardo Pepi was a surprise omission from the squad having scored 7 goals in 10 games this season for Groningen. 

 

The Captain

Tyler Adams – Another slight surprise from Berhalter who has rotated the captaincy throughout his tenure. 23-year-old Adams becomes the youngest ever player to lead the USA at a World Cup. The midfielder has been a mainstay in Jesse Marsch’s exciting Leeds team in his first season in the Premier League.

 

The Key Man

He may not be "Captain America” anymore and his club form for Chelsea has dropped off significantly in recent years, but Christian Pulisic remains the most gifted American player of his generation. His speed, dribbling ability and direct style gives the team a completely different dimension.

 

The One to Watch

Giovanni Reyna – 20-year-old son of former USMNT stalwart Claudio. The first American player to make over 50 appearances in the Bundesliga and the youngest Yank to ever play in the Champions League. Struggled with injuries recently but a precocious talent on his day.

 

Verdict

2ndMore than enough talent to get out of the group but face tricky tests against Wales and Iran where this very young squad may need to show real character.

 

Wales

The Lowdown

Making only their second ever appearance at a World Cup and their first since 1958. A historic moment for this group of Welsh players who have performed well and advanced from the group stage at the last two European Championships. Qualified at the expense of sentimental favourites Ukraine in a play-off.

 

The Manager/Style of Play

Rob Page – Promoted from assistant manager to head coach after previous boss Ryan Giggs’ personal troubles. Finished 2nd in the group to eventual winners Italy at Euro 2020 before being eliminated in the last 16. Wales like to keep a solid defensive shape with a 3/5-man backline and play on the counter-attack using the speed of their forward players.

 

The Captain/Key Player

Gareth Bale – Arguably the greatest Welshman to play the game. So much will again rest on his shoulders to deliver magic moments for this otherwise workmanlike team. At 33-years-old, not the irresistible force he once was but has repeatedly proven capable of stepping up when his country needs him.

 

The One to Watch

Kieffer Moore – A 30-year-old journeyman striker doesn’t tend to fit this category, but Moore is in hot form with 3 goals in his last 3 Premier League appearances for Bournemouth. At 6ft5 he could provide a focal point to the attack and allow Bale more freedom.

 

Verdict

3rdGetting out of the group will be a massive achievement and they are more than capable of doing it. Should be very tight between the Dragons, USA and Iran for 2nd place.

 

 

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