/ 11 November 2022

2022 World Cup preview: What’s the deal in group B?

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Question marks: England head coach Gareth Southgate's World Cup squad selection has been in the spotlight. (Photo by Barrington Coombs/Getty Images)

The Fifa World Cup brings the possibility of upsets, unforeseeable circumstances and the teeth-grinding vexation of controversy. It also brings contenders to a table that has often allowed only European and South American nations as diners. The Mail & Guardian will look at each group before the competition begins to determine who might be the nation to replace France as the world champions. Group B consists of England, Iran, United States and Wales.


What’s their deal?

“It’s coming home” will be the phrase that we will all have to endure until just before the festive season.

That is if England can find their form again. Many questions have been asked of coach Gareth Southgate’s selection and tactics for a side that has players capable of hanging with the toughest nations.

England were without a win 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 might be Southgate’s biggest headache. Apart from Harry Kane, no other player seems to be a guaranteed starter. Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount and Phil Foden will all be fighting for a starting spot.

Luckily for Southgate, this group may allow him to experiment and find his best 11 before the knockout round. 

There is no doubt that if he manages to get the balance of the team right, England could be still around in the later stages of the competition.

Star player

This English squad is filled with 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 his close control, ability to drive forward with the ball and to find space in the box means he could be the key for England in Qatar. 

If he is at his best, the side will not only 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 backline while Bellingham will be the box-to-box midfielder that can release England’s front four.


What’s their deal?

After the death of Mahsa Amini in October, Iran has been in turmoil. There have been calls for Fifa to ban the nation from this year’s World Cup. It is unfair to downplay the politics in Iran for a month of football, but once the World Cup kicks off the focus will turn to the football.

Iran came close to the knockout stage in 2018, but a dubious video assistant referee call meant Spain held out against them and advanced. 

This time around, they might feel they can reach the next round. In recent times, Iran have shown that they make every game a dog fight and have the ability to score goals. 

But, in six appearances at the World Cup, they have never advanced past the group stage, so they will need big performances against Wales and US if they are to make history.

Star player

FC Porto striker Mehdi Taremi stands out as Iran’s key player.

He is good in the air, a great target man to link up play and not bad with both feet. He has scored six times for Porto in Portugal this season and his five goals in the Champions League guided the Portuguese side to the round of 16 easily.

The question is, will he get the same type of service when representing his nation?

The US

What’s their deal?

The US are at the top in most sports, but when it comes to men’s football, they are far from it. They can, however, be unpredictable.

Making their 11th appearance at the World Cup, they usually find a way to get out of their group. 

This year, they boast a good side with talented youngsters that 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 US sides may have been missing.

But, like England, their recent form has been poor, winning just one of their last four international matches. 

Star player

Pulisic has not been a regular for Chelsea and McKennie has really been a source of light in an underperforming Juventus team. Reyna could be the key for the US, operating off the right side and cutting in to start many of their attacking moves.

Assisted by Dest down that side, the pair could be a problem for any nation this year.


What’s their deal?

After a 64-year wait to finally be back among football’s elite nations, Wales enter this World Cup with an element of surprise. 

It seems to be going well for them now, after reaching a European Championship semi-final back in 2016. Granted, that was when Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey enjoyed prime time.

It’s also not great for them that Ryan Giggs stepped down as head coach in June, but new coach Rob Page will be licking his lips as he gets the chance to lead the nation to Qatar.

It could be an early trip home for them, but they will be hoping that the same passion and determination that got them to Qatar will make it tough for other teams against them. 

Star player

Well past his best, Bale is still the main man. He has also inspired the Los Angeles Football Club in the US to silverware, and is a hungry lion when he puts that Welsh shirt on. 

Used a striker next to Dan James in a Welsh system that employs five defenders, it’s clear that Bale and James will use their pace to trouble opposition. Give Bale a dead ball situation and, who knows, he could book Wales a place in the next round.