When the initial draw came out, obviously the United States and England getting paired together again brought about tremendous excitement and expectation. America loves nothing more than to remind England who invented the word soccer (the Brits) and exactly where New England thinks tea belongs (in the harbor).
That being said, this is a fantastic group for storylines and potential and horrific group for actual soccer. On their best days, all four of these teams are quite good and yet none of these teams have shown recently that they are playing at their best.
England and Wales got relegated out of the top flight their UEFA Nations League groups with the English defense in shambles particularly, the USA struggled mightily in their last friendlies in September and also has questions in their lineup, Wales is going in to their opener against the USA without starting midfielder Joe Allen, and Iran might be down their best striker in Sardar Azmoun for a team that doesn’t score a lot of goals to begin with.
So while the potential for greatness is high here...I think equally so is the potential for chaos on the field. Despite the talent on all four of these teams, and England especially, there is a wide open opportunity for all four teams to really seize hold of this group from the start. A result for Iran in their opener against England would open the door to any of the teams winning while a winner in the USA-Wales game would surely have a leg up on at least second place behind the favored Three Lions.
Below are the TV schedules and group previews with as much up to date information as possible. All rosters are not final until the day before a teams first game and might reflect an initial roster without injury replacements.
TV SCHEDULE (all times US Eastern)
Mon, Nov. 21 England vs. Iran 8 a.m. Khalifa Int’l Stadium - FS1, Telemundo
Mon, Nov. 21 USA vs. Wales 2 p.m. Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium - FOX, Telemundo
Fri, Nov. 25 Wales vs. Iran 5 a.m. Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium - FS1, Telemundo
Fri, Nov. 25 England vs. USA 2 p.m. Al Bayt Stadium - FOX, Telemundo
Tues, Nov. 29 Wales vs. England 2 p.m. Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium - FS1, Telemundo
Tues, Nov. 29 Iran vs. USA 2 p.m. Al Thumama Stadium - FOX, Universo
ENGLAND [ENG/B1-Pot 1]
Head Coach: Gareth Southgate (ENG)
Nickname: Three Lions
Rankings: FIFA 5 / ELO 14
Qualification: UEFA Group I Winners
Appearance: 16th / Best Finish: Champions (1966)
Recent Results: UEFA Nations League L at Italy 0-1; D vs Germany 3-3
Player You Should Know: FWD Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur, 75 Int’l caps / 51 goals
Player You Should Watch: MID Jude Bellingham, Borussia Dortmund, 17 Int’l caps / 0 goals
Where do we begin with England...this is not a team in great form which is why Group B could be entirely wide open and an entertaining mess from start to finish. The Three Lions haven’t won since a pair of friendlies in March over Switzerland and Ivory Coast, got bounced into the B Flight of the European Nations League after going winless in six games including a pair of losses to Hungary. Their defense has at times been in shambles and despite that...yes, they could win this group. Maybe not convincingly, but this is a team that did make the World Cup semis four years ago and the Euro Final last year losing to Croatia and Italy respectively.
IRAN [IRN/B2 - Pot 3]
Head Coach: Carlos Queiroz (POR)
Nickname: Team Melli / Lions of Persia
Rankings: FIFA 20 / ELO 22
Qualification: AFC Third Group Group A Winners
Appearance: 6th / Best Finish: Group Stage
Iran National Football Team World Cup Squad 2022 pic.twitter.com/auyblHEKBN— FOOTBALL for EVERYONE (@Football4Evry1) November 14, 2022
Recent Results: Friendlies, W 1-0 vs Uruguay; D 1-1 vs Senegal; W 1-0 vs Nicaragua
Player You Should Know: FWD Mehdi Taremi, Porto (POR), 60 Int’l caps / 28 goals
Player You Should Watch: MID Alireza Jahanbahsh, Feyenoord (NED), 64 Int’l caps/13 goals
In their five previous World Cup appearances, Iran has been eliminated in the group stage, but they are coming off a near miss in 2018 when they finished a point behind both Spain and Portugal in a tough group – this might be Iran’s best chance to make a knockout for the first time. They have the front-line attackers in Taremi and Jahanbahsh who scored four goals each in the last round of qualifying. Despite the injury to striker Sardar Azmoun which does hurt their chances, Iran boasts an experienced and veteran team. What makes this team interesting is that they have proven to be difficult to breakdown, allowing just 8 goals in 18 total qualifiers, and they play a lot of low scoring and close games. I expect more of the same from them at the World Cup which makes them a threat to claim multiple results in this group even if they might be the long shot for the knockouts.
UNITED STATES [USA/B3 - Pot 2]
Head Coach: Gregg Berhalter (USA)
Nickname: The Yanks / Stars and Stripes
Rankings: FIFA 16 / ELO 24
Qualification: CONCACAF Third Round, 3rd Place
Appearance: 11th / Best Finish: 3rd Place (1930)
Recent Results: Friendlies, L 0-2 vs Japan; D 0-0 vs Saudi Arabia
Player You Should Know: GK Matt Turner, Arsenal (ENG), 20 Int’l caps
Player You Should Watch: MID Yunus Musah, Valencia (ESP), 19 Int’l caps / 0 goals
After missing out on the 2018 tournament, the USA is back with the youngest team in the tournament full of young and improving talents. Pulisic, Reyna, Weah, McKennie among others will all be around for several qualifying cycles, but this is the group’s first true test before playing hosts in 2026. Matt Turner has been established as the #1 keeper to the delight of New England Revolution fans, but questions remain at centerback and up top at striker. There’s a lot of young talent on this roster but I want to highlight Musah in particular as I don’t think the box-to-box midfielder gets enough credit or plaudits and he is only 19 years old.
Can the USA get out of this group? Of course it can, but not if the US plays like it did in September where they struggled mightily to create chances. I talked about this in my full preview, but the last two friendlies in September hopefully were a wakeup call for both players and head coach that the system wasn’t working, and the US desperately need to change things going into this tournament. A slow, predictable attack against three organized teams isn’t going to get it done – the US needs to unleash its talent, speed, and athleticism via the press and counterattack in order to get results. All results from winning the group to finishing last are on the table based on their recent form but a win in the opener against Wales will take a lot of pressure off this group the rest of the way.
WALES [WAL/B4 - Pot 4]
Head Coach: Rob Page (WAL)
Nickname: The Dragons
Rankings: FIFA 19 / ELO 25
Qualification: UEFA Group E 2nd Place; UEFA Path A Playoff Winners (W 2-1 vs Austria; W 1-0 vs Ukraine)
Appearance: 2nd / Best Finish: Quarterfinals (1958)
Recent Results: UEFA Nations Leauge A Flight: L at Belgium 1-2; L vs Poland 0-1
Players You Should Know/Watch: FWD Gareth Bale (LAFC), MID Aaron Ramsey (Nice), GK Wayne Hennessey (Nottingham Forest)
The old guard of Wales finally get their shot at a World Cup and they honestly deserve it. Wales has been an afterthought on the international stage up until a shock semi-final appearance at the 2016 Euros which was their continental debut after nearly 60 years of the UEFA competition. The Golden Generation of dragons does not however come into the tournament in tremendous form, having been relegated out of their UEFA Nations League A Flight group with just one point in six games. Still, this is a squad with solid experience and players mostly from the top three English tiers including Welsh sides Cardiff City and Swansea City and can make things difficult for everyone in the group.
This group is either going to be a boring, chalk filled affair that England wins or a raging dumpster fire of entertainment. I’m hoping and rooting for the latter but there’s also still a very good chance that England sorts themselves out and runs away with this group very easily.
Now, I’m absolutely not picking that to happen because I think Wales is going to make the knockouts and one of the oddest head-to-head competitive records in all of sports is going to stand. England has never beaten the USA at a World Cup going back to Joe Gaetjens and the Miracle on Grass in 1950 and the Robert Green game in 2010. It is entirely possible that 5 points could win this group just like 2010 when the USA and England advanced with that total. I expect a lot of close games and a lot of reminders that it’s still not coming home.
USA - Wales - England - Iran