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World Cup contenders England open their campaign against minnows Iran
England to win 2-0
Tournament: FIFA World Cup 2022 | Venue: Doha, Khalifa International StadiumBet Now
England go into their third major tournament under Gareth Southgate’s management, with the team looking to go one better than their Semi Final finish in 2018.
The Three Lions also reached the Final at Euro 2020, showing that this is a team potentially building to something special at this World Cup.
Southgate’s men have suffered from one or two injuries in the build up to the tournament, which could affect their starting line-up here. They’ll be a strong outfit, for sure, however.
Iran have never made it past the Group Stage at a World Cup, although have now reached their third tournament in a row.
The 2018 edition was arguably their best performance so far, coming third in a group that also contained Spain and Portugal, only missing out on qualification by a point.
Their group is slightly easier this time round, and they will be eyeing games against Wales and the USA and winnable fixtures.
FIFA Ranking: 5
Predicted Finish: Semi Finals
Reasons to be cheerful:
Semi-Final finish in 2018 will provide confidence here
Relatively straightforward route to the Quarter Finals
Reasons to be fearful:
Injury concerns will mean a changed line-up here
Several players are not in the best form
England will be feeling confident coming into this tournament, despite their preparations not being absolutely perfect.
A number of their senior players, such as Harry Maguire and Raheem Sterling, have not been in the best of form for their clubs, although they are expected to rise to the occasion at the biggest tournament of all.
Their squad has also been hampered by injuries. Reece James, one of their best right backs, has been ruled out of the squad through injury, while Kyle Walker won’t play in this game despite being included in the squad.
On the positive side, they couldn’t have asked for a much easier set of opponents in their group. While all three of Iran, USA and Wales are in the world ranking’s top 20, all should be beatable from England’s view.
It is a group that England should top, although opening games can often be tight and nervy encounters. They won’t want to drop points here.
Star Man – Harry Kane
Kane is only two away from Wayne Rooney’s all-time England goalscoring record. Considering he scored six in 2018’s tournament, that may not be too far away.
FIFA Ranking: 20
Predicted Finish: Group Stage
Reasons to be cheerful
Won 14 of their 18 qualifying games, conceding only eight goals
Well-balanced squad with experience from 2018 tournament
Reasons to be fearful
Best player is likely to be out injured
Have scored just nine goals in their previous 15 World Cup games
Iran won’t be any pushovers in this tournament, despite never progressing from the group stage phase of the World Cup.
While they are the lowest ranked country in Group B, they have shown themselves to have a strong defensive record in qualifying and they possess players with experience of being at the World Cup in 2018.
Like England, they too have included a player in their squad who is unlikely to be fit for the first game. Sardar Azmoun has a good record for Iran, netting 41 goals in 65 games, but is likely to miss out here.
Despite their strong defensive record in recent times, they will need to improve their goalscoring ratio. They’ve never scored more than two goals across their three group games in any World Cup prior to this one.
Star Man – Mehdi Taremi
Taremi has been on fire for Porto so far this season, scoring 13 goals in 18 appearances. He has 28 from 60 caps for Iran, so will be seen as a threat against England.
England will be heavy favourites here
Iran have the ability to spring a surprise
Qatar heat could play a factor
This game is set to be played in mid-afternoon, in the peak of the Qatar heat. While the stadiums will be air conditioned, it is still a set of conditions that England will not be used to.
Despite this, they remain favourites to open their World Cup journey with three points here. It is vital that they top the group to ensure a potentially easier path through to the Quarter Finals.
Iran have the firepower upfront to cause a problem or two for an out-of-sorts England defence, but even that might not be enough.
England to win 2-0
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