Welcome back to our second article in a series of eight which will look in a bit more detail at the forthcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The tournament starts on the 20th November and will run through until the 18th December, when the World Cup Final will be contested.

31 teams have qualified for the tournament alongside the hosts Qatar and they have been split into eight groups for the first qualifying phase of the tournament, the Group Phase.

Here we are going to focus on the group that has the most interest for fans of the two home nations teams competing, England and Wales and that is Group B.

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Let’s continue our countdown with a closer look at the four teams that will be competing to qualify from Group B.

Group B

  • England
  • Iran
  • United States
  • Wales

Group B Fixtures

  • 21st Nov – England v Iran – Khalifa International Stadium (1pm)
  • 21st Nov – United States v Wales – Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium (7pm)
  • 25th Nov – Wales v Iran – Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium (10am)
  • 25th Nov – England v United States – Al Bayt Stadium (7pm)
  • 29th Nov – Wales v England – Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium (7pm)
  • 29th Nov – Iran v United States – Al Thumama Stadium (7pm)

Group B Team Information

England

  • Manager – Gareth Southgate
  • Captain – Harry Kane
  • Best World Cup Performance – 1 x Winners (1966)
  • World Cup 2018 Performance – Semi Finalists
  • Current FIFA Ranking – 5th
  • Current Form (Last 5 games) – DdLLD

England’s Probable Best XI – (4-2-3-1) – Pickford (GK), Alexander-Arnold (DR), Shaw (DL), Stones (DC), Dier (DC), Rice (MC), Bellingham (MC), Mount (AMC), Grealish (AML), Foden (AMR), Kane (AC)

With injuries ruling out full backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell, plus Kalvin Phillips participation far from certain, Gareth Southgate does have some injury headaches for this tournament. He may also decide to leave Trent Alexander-Arnold at home, if rumours are believed to be true, which would be a big surprise given how talented the Liverpool full-back is. Clamour is also growing for James Maddison to be afforded a place in the squad.

England reached the semifinals of the World Cup in 2018 and were beaten finalists in the European Championships in 2021, can they go one better this time around?

I’m not so sure. Confidence and form is poor for England at the moment and while the group stage should not offer too many problems, they could well be found out in the latter stages of the tournament once again.

I can see England winning their opener against Iran, but it won’t be quite as comfortable as many are suggesting. The game with the United States will be tough, as will the clash with Wales and I can see England winning one and drawing one of these games, but that should be enough to top the group.

Iran

  • Manager – Carlos Queiroz
  • Captain – Ehsan Hajsafi
  • Best World Cup Performance – Group Stages
  • World Cup 2018 Performance – N/A – Did not Qualify
  • Current FIFA Ranking – 20th
  • Current Form (Last 5 games) – LWLWD

Iran’s Probable Best XI – (4-1-4-1) – Beiranvand (GK), Moharrami (DR), Jalali (DL), Khalilzadeh (DC), Kanaanizadegan (DC), Afagh (DMC), Jahanbakhsh (MR), Ghoddos (MC), Hajsafi (MC), Taremi (ML), Azmoun (AC)

There will be one familiar face in the Iranian squad with former Manchester United assistant manager Carlos Queiroz on the bench. Iran are a decent side, they do not score many goals but they have dangerous attackers in the form of Taremi and Azmoun in particular.

There is also no doubt that the Iranian team will be highly motivated with games against England and the United States which, for political reasons alone, will be games that they will certainly raise their game for.

Iran did cause an upset when they last played the United States at the World Cup, winning 2-0, but this time around, I feel their best hope of getting some points may well come in the game with Wales and even then I am not convinced that they will manage to pick up something there.

United States

  • Manager – Gregg Berhalter
  • Captain – Tyler Adams
  • Best World Cup Performance – 3rd (1930)
  • World Cup 2018 Performance – N/A – Did not Qualify
  • Current FIFA Ranking – 16th
  • Current Form (Last 5 games) – dWDLd

United States’ Probable Best XI – (4-3-3)- Turner (GK), Dest (DR), A.Robinson (DL), Zimmerman (DC), M.Robinson (DC), Adams (MC), McKennie (MC), Aaronson (MC), Weah (AMR), Pulisic (AML), Reyna (AC)

Gregg Berhalter’s team is certainly one of the youngest at this World Cup and there is clearly an eye to having a much stronger and more experienced team ready to compete when the World Cup is held on home soil in 2026.

Even so, this United States team has plenty of quality, especially in attacking areas with the likes of Aaronson, Pulisic, Reyna, Pepi, Weah and McKennie all high quality options playing at a great level in Europe.

I do wonder about them defensively though and I think if they have a weakness, it may well be in that section of the team.

I can see them scoring goals but I can also see them conceding too and that should make them an intriguing watch in this group.

Wales

  • Manager – Robert Page
  • Captain – Gareth Bale
  • Best World Cup Performance – Quarter Finals (1958)
  • World Cup 2018 Performance – N/A – Did not Qualify
  • Current FIFA Ranking – 19th
  • Current Form (Last 5 games) – LDLLL

Wales’ Probable Best XI – (3-4-2-1)- Hennessey (GK), Roberts (DMR), Williams.N (DML), Rodon (DC), Ampadu (DC), Davies.B (DC), Allen (DMC), Ramsey (MC), James.D (AMR), G.Bale (AML), K.Moore (AC)

Can Wales make it out of the group stages? Recent history at the Euros suggests that they have a good chance to do that, but they are going to have to pick up at least five points to be assured of that and therein lies the challenge for Robert Page’s team.

Of course, in Gareth Bale, they have an outstanding talent, but Bale is not the fittest at this moment and while he raises his game for Wales, he seldom lasts the full 90 minutes in games nowadays and that does diminish the Welsh threat, especially in the second and third group games.

But Wales do have some younger talents coming through and the likes of James, Wilson, Moore and Williams are all players who could thrive on this stage and contribute to the teams performance.

Wales will be in a closely fought battle between the United States and Wales for second spot in the group in my view and if they can perhaps get a draw against England and/or beat the United States, then second spot could be on the cards for the Dragons.

Group B Prediction & Tips

  1. England – (1/3 to win the group)
  2. Wales – (To Qualify – 11/10)
  3. United States
  4. Iran