The FIFA World Cup brings with it the possibility of surprises, unforeseeable circumstances and the gnashing of teeth of controversy. It also brings the contenders to a table that has often allowed only European and South American nations as diners. the mail and guardian will analyze each group before the competition begins to determine who could be the nation that replaces France as world champion. Group B consists of England, Iran, the United States and Wales.
What’s your deal?
“It’s going home” will be the phrase that we will all have to put up with until shortly before the holidays.
That is if England can find their form again. Many questions have been asked about the selection and tactics of manager Gareth Southgate for a team that has players capable of taking on the toughest of nations.
England were winless in this year’s UEFA Nations League, but this group presents them with a chance to gain some confidence. They open their World Cup campaign against Iran and should comfortably win that game.
There are so many avenues for England in attack and that could be Southgate’s biggest headache. Aside from Harry Kane, no other player appears to be a guaranteed starter. Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount and Phil Foden will fight for a starting job.
Fortunately for Southgate, this pool may allow him to experiment and find his best 11 before the knockout round.
There is no doubt that if he manages to balance the team well, England could continue to be present in the later stages of the competition.
This England team is full of young stars who are often classified as generational talents, but there is one that stands out. Foden has nine goal contributions in the 13 games he has played for Manchester City this season and the close control of him, his ability to advance with the ball and find space in the box means he could be the key for England in Qatar. .
If he’s at his best, the team won’t just be relying on Kane to get the goals; he will bring the entire front line into play.
It’s also worth noting that the duo of Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham in England’s midfield will be crucial to England’s World Cup campaign. Rice will protect a shaky back line, while Bellingham will be the box-to-box midfielder who can free up England’s four forwards.
What’s your deal?
After Mahsa Amini’s death in October, Iran has been in crisis. There have been calls for FIFA to exclude the nation from this year’s World Cup. It’s unfair to downplay politics in Iran for a month of soccer, but once the World Cup starts, the focus will be on soccer.
Iran came close to the round of 16 in 2018, but a dubious video call from the assistant referee meant Spain held on against them and advanced.
This time, they can feel that they can make it to the next round. Of late, Iran have shown that they make every game a dogfight and have the ability to score goals.
But, in six World Cup appearances, they never made it past the group stage, so they will need big performances against Wales and the USA if they are to make history.
FC Porto striker Mehdi Taremi stands out as the key player for Iran.
He is good in the passing game, a great target to link the game and he is not bad with both feet. He has scored six times for Porto in Portugal this season and his five Champions League goals guided the Portuguese side to the round of 16 with ease.
The question is, will you get the same kind of service when you represent your nation?
The United States
What’s your deal?
The United States is on top in most sports, but when it comes to men’s soccer, it’s far from it. However, they can be unpredictable.
Making their 11th World Cup appearance, they usually find their way out of their group.
This year, they have a good squad of young talents who have become regular names in Europe’s top five leagues. The likes of Christian Pulisic, Winston McKennie, Tylor Adams, Sergino Dest and Giovanni Reyna bring a fair amount of flair that previous American teams may have missed.
But, like England, their recent form has been poor, winning just one of their last four caps.
Pulisic hasn’t been a Chelsea regular and McKennie has really been a source of light in an underperforming Juventus side. Reyna could be the key for the US, operating from the right side and cutting to initiate many of their attacking moves.
With Dest assisting on that side, the pairing could be a problem for any nation this year.
What’s your deal?
After a 64-year wait to finally be back among soccer’s elite nations, Wales enter this World Cup with an element of surprise.
They seem to be doing well now, after reaching a European Championship semi-final in 2016. Of course, that was when Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey enjoyed prime time.
It’s also not good for them that Ryan Giggs stepped down as head coach in June, but new coach Rob Page will be licking his lips when he gets the chance to lead the nation to Qatar.
It could be an early trip home for them, but they hope that the same passion and determination that got them to Qatar will make things difficult for other teams against them.
Well past his prime, Bale is still the main man. He’s also inspired the Los Angeles Football Club in the US to cutlery, and he’s a hungry lion when he dons that Welsh jersey.
Using a striker alongside Dan James in a Welsh system that employs five defenders, it’s clear that Bale and James will use their pace to upset the opposition. Give Bale a dead ball situation and, who knows, he could reserve Wales a place in the next round.