World Cup Preview - Group B: England to cruise to the last-16?


After taking a look at Group A, we turn our attention to Group B as England look to go one step further than they managed last summer at Euro 2020. 




How they qualified 


England qualified for the World Cup as group winners. They were unbeaten throughout, winning eight out of their 10 games and scoring 39 goals in the process, only conceding three. Poland, in second place, finished six points behind them. 


One to watch – Harry Kane 


At the 2018 World Cup, Harry Kane won the Golden Boot, scoring six goals, and at Euro 2020, he was only one goal off matching Cristiano Ronaldo, who won the Golden Boot last year. He has been in fine form for Tottenham this season, scoring 12 goals from 15 league appearances, and will be hoping to become England’s all-time top goalscorer in the coming weeks. He is currently two goals off matching Wayne Rooney’s 53-goal record. 


Young Player to Watch – Jude Bellingham 


At just 19 years of age, Jude Bellingham is fast becoming one of Europe’s most sought after players. Even at such a young age he has already captained Borussia Dortmund and his energy and technical quality will bring something different to England’s midfield. In the Champions League so far this season, he has scored four goals and claimed one assist showing he can produce against the very best. 




England should win the group, but it may not be as easy as many are predicting. 




How they qualified 


Iran qualified, for what will be their sixth World Cup, by topping their qualification group ahead of South Korea in second, winning eight, drawing one and losing one. 


One to watch – Mehdi Taremi 


At 30, Mehdi Taremi brings experience to this Iran side, having played at the 2018 World Cup. He is perhaps the most high-profile player in the Iran squad, and is currently playing for Porto, having moved there in the summer of 2020,after spending a year playing for Rio Ave and impressing with the joint most goals in the Primeira Liga that year. He has scored 42 goals in 79 appearances for Porto and will no doubt pose a threat. The striker is not afraid of the spectacular either, with his overhead kick against Chelsea in the Champions League in 2021 voted ‘ Goal of the Season’. 


World Cup Preview - Group B: England to cruise to the last-16?


Young Player to Watch – Abolfazl Jalai 


In the Iran squad, there are no players aged 23 or under and so at 24 years of age, Abolfazl Jalai is the young player to watch at this tournament. Jalai plays as a left-back for Iranian side Esteghlal and only made his debut for the senior Iran side in April last year, that coming in a 3-0 win over Syria. 




Iran will cause problems in this group, as they did in the 2018 World Cup when they drew with Portugal and only lost 1-0 to Spain, but they will likely go out at the group stages, as they have done in all of their previous tournament appearances. 




How they qualified 


USA finished third in the CONCACAF table, only above Costa Rica in fourth by goal difference, who had to play in a playoff round to get to the World Cup.  


One to watch – Weston McKennie 


The Juventus midfielder has the capability to play a variety of roles across the midfield. He adds defensive stability to USA’s midfield, as well as a sound passing ability, having averaged an 82.6% pass success rate in Serie A this season. He can also score goals, having netted three this season already, two of which came in the Champions League. 


Young Player to Watch – Gio Reyna 


Another young Borussia Dortmund talent to watch out for is Gio Reyna. An attacking midfield by trade, who can also play on the wing, he will be a difficult player for any defender to deal with as a player who likes to dribble with the ball. In three league starts for Dortmund this season, he has two goals, and was recently a nominee for the 2022 Golden Boy award. 




The USA will be a tricky team to play against and have a lot of talented players who play all over Europe. The opening game against Wales will be key, but they might just miss out on a last 16 place. 




How they qualified 


Wales finished as runners up in their qualifying group and so were forced to go through the playoffs, beating Austria and then Ukraine in the final. 


One to watch – Gareth Bale 


The former Real Madrid star can already be considered a Wales legend as the captain and all-time record goalscorer of his country and someone who has been influential for the Dragns for many years, including recently, scoring both goals in the playoff semi-final against Austria. Even at the age of 33 he is still able to produce moments of quality, scoring the equaliser for LAFC in stoppage time to send the MLS Cup Final to penalties, which his side eventually won. As a serial winner in club football, he will be eager to get as far as possible in what could be his final major tournament as a Wales International. 


Young Player to Watch – Neco Williams 


The Nottingham Forest full-back has been one of the bright sparks for his club side in what has been a difficult return for Forest to the Premier League. Williams began his career with Liverpool, but made the move to Forest in the summer. He is an attack minded full-back, who can also play in midfield, and on either side of the pitch, offering that versatility that can be key in a World Cup. He is someone with good technical quality on the ball and who has the ability to find a long pass.  




After their heroics at Euro 2016, where they made the semi-finals, Wales will be confident of making an impression at their first World Cup since 1958, especially with their mix of experience and young talent, so they will likely finish the group as runners up. 


Group Stage predictions

1.    England

2.    Wales

3.    USA

4.    Iran

World Cup Preview - Group B: England to cruise to the last-16?