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10 days to World Cup 2022: Group B preview

Group B consists of England, Iran, the United States and Wales. Whilst that may sound like a relative formality for the English it actually contains the most highly ranked teams from any of the tournament’s eight groups.



Gareth Southgate announced his squad on Thursday and as expected he has largely stayed loyal to the players that have served him well in previous tournaments.

Southgate has had the most successful reign of any England coach in 50 years following the nation’s semi-final appearance at the last World Cup in 2018 and their narrow defeat to Italy in the final of Euro 2020.

However, he is currently undergoing his most troublesome period in his reign. The last 12 months have been miserable with a string of bad results and a severe lack of goals. Southgate will hope that it was simply a case of lack of motivation for competing in the Nations league and his troops are saving their best for the big occasion.

Style of play:

In a word, pragmatic. Southgate has largely preferred a 3-5-2 with a double pivot in central midfield at major tournaments, formations do not get much more cautious than that.

They have alternated to four at the back on various occasions, particularly when trying to break down defensive opposition, which will apply to their group rivals.

England’s lack of goals and imagination in the final third over the past year will be cause for concern considering they will need to break down stubborn defences. Given Southgate’s penchant for playing fast inverted wingers looking to run in behind defences with Harry Kane dropping deep they may well continue to struggle to find the net in this group.

Key player:

Harry Kane has been Engalnd’s main man at each of the previous three tournaments and they will be heavily reliant on his goals and creativity once again. Could eclipse Wayne Rooney as the nation’s all time top scorer in the next few weeks.

That is, if Kane can match his feat of top scorer with six goals in Russia in 2018. He currently has 51 international goals, whilst Rooney has 53.

Keep an eye on:

England have several exceptional young players in Foden, Saka and Rice but they are all quite established now. Jude Bellingham however only made fleeting appearances at Euro 2020 but the 19-year-old has arguably been England’s stand out performer, albeit in an underwhelming year thus far.

It had seemed unlikely that he would force his way into the first XI even at the tail end of last season owing to Kalvin Phillips’ form and partnership in central midfield with Declan Rice.

Phillips’ injury opened the door for him and although the Manchester City player has now returned to action just in time for the World Cup, Bellingham now seems simply undroppable. He is certainly just that for his club Borussia Dortmund, having been a consistent starter for three seasons.

The youngster has regularly been one of Dortmund’s most impressive performers but this season he has taken his game to another level. He is their midfield linchpin and currently wears the captains armband, a testament to the teenager’s temperament.

Bellingham is a box-to-box player, adept at both protecting the defence and leading attacks. His recent outings have been all the more impressive considering the lacklustre team performances of England over the last year and Dortmund’s flakiness. He has taken games by the scruff of the neck time and again and seems destined to do the same in November and December.

World Cup pedigree:

They famously won the 1966 tournament on home turf and reached the semis in both 1990 and 2018.

We expect:

Despite England’s rotten run of form since Euro 2020 they display many of the hallmarks of the winners this century. They have a strong team unit which are very familiar with one another and they look capable of grinding out narrow victories and keeping clean sheets, as displayed at the last two tournaments.

However, their record against elite level opposition in the knockout stages of major tournaments has been consistently poor. Indeed a harsh critic might attribute their promising performances at Euro 2020 and World Cup 2018 to not playing major nations earlier in the tournament.

If they are to get further than the last eight they will probably need to enjoy some luck and avoid the big boys.



Carlos Queiroz is an immensely experienced international manager, having coached Portugal twice, UAE, South Africa, Colombia, Egypt and now in his second stint with Iran.

He can consider himself unlucky to have not got Iran to the knockout stage of the last World Cup, having seen his team perform admirably in picking up four points in a group with Spain, Portugal and Morocco

A popular figure amongst Iranian fans, he returned to helm in September specifically to guide the country at this tournament.

Style of play:

Queiroz has largely been a defensive-minded coach throughout his career and that was certainly the case when he previously held the reins with Iran.

He generally prefers a 4-1-4-1, seeking to remain compact and grab a goal.

Key player:

Mehdi Taremi is the stand out player of his generation, he has been an important player for Porto since signing for them in 2020. He memorably scored a bicycle kick against Chelsea in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2021 which won the “ Goal of the Season” award.

He is a tall, athletic and technically gifted player whose all round game makes just as able to play the role of creator as well goalscorer, indeed he was second top scorer in the Portuguese league last and third for assists.

Keep an eye on:

Alireza Jahanbakhsh is one of better known players in the squad after his few seasons in the Premier League with Brighton.

Now 29 years old he is certainly no up-and-comer but he provides the spark of inventiveness and pace from wide positions that Iran will heavily rely upon as they seek moments of magic after long periods out of possession.

World Cup pedigree:

This will be Iran’s fifth time at the World Cup and they have never made it beyond the group stage. However, they have been drawn in tough groups and as mentioned previously were unlucky not to progress last time around.

We expect:

With a fairly even field beyond favourites England and many of the best players at their peak, this is probably Iran’s best ever chance to make it to the knockout phase. However, they might lack a little cutting edge in comparison to their group rivals, expect them to once again narrowly come up short.

United States:


Back in 2018 Gregg Berhalter was a relatively surprising appointment, having made his name in MLS coaching Columbus Crew for five seasons. Prior to that he spent two years as head coach with Hammarby in Sweden.

Style of play:

Berhalter has introduced a modern strategic approach, more typically seen at club level, with an intense high pressing game. The style of play is well suited to his choice of fairly young and highly energetic players.

It will be fascinating to see if they stick with that approach given that virtually no successful international side has implemented such a game plan at a World Cup in recent memory. Perhaps with the notable exception of Bielsa’s Chile back in 2010.

Key player:

Christian Pulisic of Chelsea is the best known and most talented player in the squad, described by some in the U.S. media as the “LeBron of soccer”. Pulisic is quick, expert dribbler, capable of creating chances for himself out of nothing.

His form and first team opportunities for Chelsea are sure to be a worry. Under Chelsea coach Graham Potter this season he seemed to be shoehorned into the side in a wing back role that he looks ill-suited to.

Although his tribulations with Chelsea need not be an impediment to making an impact for the States where he will likely play in his preferred position, cutting in off the left wing.

Keep an eye on:

Broadly speaking US midfield. The likely central trio of McKennie, Adams and Musah are possibly the most high octane midfielders on show at the tournament. All three are not only very industrious but technically gifted.

Valencia’s Yunus Musah is the youngest and lesser known of the three. He is enjoying his breakout season in La Liga, having been on the fringes until recently. He is part ball winner, part deep lying playmaker for the national having originally made an impression on the wing.

World Cup pedigree:

They have qualified for six of the last seven World Cup’s, only missing out last time out.

The deepest they have progressed was at the first ever edition in 1930, reaching the semis. In the modern era, their greatest achievement was reaching the quarters in 2002, narrowly being defeated by Germany 1-0.

We expect:

A strong midfield and pacey attack make them a serious contender to qualify for the last 16. However, their high pressing game is a dangerous one, particularly bearing in mind the group rivals obvious penchant for counter attacking football.

World Cup history has not been favourable to sides that like to gamble by pressing high and it seems early exit likely beckons.



Robert Page took charge of the national team in 2020 in awkward circumstances, replacing Ryan Giggs following the latters arrest. Page owes quite a lot to his predecessors, in particular Chris Coleman and the late Gary Speed who have helped the Welsh over achieve.

Page has, however, proved himself a competent coach in his own right, taking the Welsh to the knockout stage at Euro 2020 and qualifying via a playoff against Ukraine to reach Qatar.

Having coached the under-21 squad prior to his appointment to the seniors he has been well-positioned to assess the players at his disposal.

Style of play:

The Welsh have played with three at the back for a number of campaigns prior to Page taking the reins. The system continues to get the best out of the star players. The nation has consistently possessed a handful of elite level players with a notably big drop off to the fellow squad members.

This time around they look likely to play a 3-4-3, seeking to get inverted wide men Bale and James on the ball as much as possible, particularly on the counter.

Their approach in the final third will depend on the opposition, with Nottingham Forest’s Johnson useful when set up to counter attack and Bournemouth’s hulking Moore a capable target man who is just coming into form at club level.

Key player:

Gareth Bale has been pivotal to their Wales’ success over the last six years, as they consistently defy the odds. He was once the best player in the Premier League for Tottenham, then a regular starter for Real Madrid, and in his latter years for Spanish giants he barely kicked a ball for two seasons.

He now turns out intermittently for Los Angeles Galaxy. But no matter his club status he always seems to deliver at international level.

Like many great players he has evolved to adapt his game. No longer capable of lung-bursting weaving runs through defences he tends to be most dangerous shooting from long range or delivering set pieces.

Few players are as indispensable to their team as much as Bale is to the Welsh, a dependence that he embraces.

Keep an eye on:

Bale tends to grab the headlines and usually rightly so. But if Wales are to prosper they will rely on the electric pace and boundless energy of Dan James who is a consistent performer at this level.

His aforementioned speed always makes opposition defences adjust their style to try to avoid his getting up ahead of steam. He and Brendan Johnson will play a vital counter attacking threat which can open up space for the more gifted Bale and Aaron Ramsey.

World Cup pedigree:

There has been much excitement in Wales about their qualification and understandably so as there will not have been many alive to witness the last time they made it to the world’s biggest international competition back in 1958.

We expect:

If they take three points off the US they will be very well positioned to qualify for the knockout stage. Given their experience and togetherness they look capable of picking up the necessary points. A place beyond the last 16 seems unlikely unless the draw is especially favourable.

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