November 16, 2022 12:09 AM
Alex Lawes

2022 FIFA World Cup Predictions: Group B

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FIFA ranking: 5

FIFA World Cup appearances: 16th Entry

FIFA World Cup best: Winners (1966)

Manager: Gareth Southgate

Captain: Harry Kane

Since the appointment of Gareth Southgate, England have made a lot of progress. The Three Lions were humiliated at UEFA Euro 2016, being knocked out by Iceland, after a group stage exit at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Things could barely get much worse.

Southgate led a young and vibrant side to the semi-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, finishing fourth in the tournament; just their third World Cup semi-final ever and their first in nearly 30 years. A year later, after defeating Spain and Croatia in the group stages, they finished third at the inaugural UEFA Nations League and then two years on from that improvement they finished second at UEFA Euro 2020, losing on penalties to Italy.

Fourth, third, second… there has been clear progress but supporters remain frustrated with an overly conservative style of play that many believe has cost them in key matches, most notably that aforementioned UEFA Euro 2020 final last summer.

Performances and the style of play had always been underwhelming to many but results continued to arrive so many believed in and backed the management and process. However, the year of 2022 has been a really bad one so far. The Three Lions’ 3-3 draw with Germany in September means they are now winless in their last six matches after a hugely disappointing UEFA Nations League campaign.

There are causes for real optimism, aside from their impressive showings at recent major tournaments. There is a lot of talent in the England squad and there is a real chance they could benefit from a fairly comfortable route in the knockout stages, once again.

If, as is expected, England and Argentina both win their groups and Denmark topple France, as they have done twice in competitive matches just this year, then England are looking at a knockout stage route which would go: probably Senegal, probably Denmark/Mexico/Poland and then probably Spain/Portugal/Uruguay.

Given that, a run to the final four, at least, seems quite plausible for Gareth Southgate’s side, despite their general feeling of negativity and apathy from their supporters.

TSZ Prediction: Semi-finals


FIFA ranking: 20

FIFA World Cup appearances: Sixth Entry

FIFA World Cup best: Groups (1978, 1998, 2006, 2014, 2018)

Manager: Carlos Queiroz

Captain: Ehsan Hajsafi

In the second round of AFC qualification, Iran struggled and were behind Iraq with just a couple of games to go. They eventually came through and then were a lot more comfortable in the third round of qualification.

Despite that, though, performances remained a little unconvincing for a side looking to reach the knockout stages of a FIFA World Cup for the first time ever and a decision was made to replace Dragan Skocic with the returning Carlos Queiroz.

Queiroz led Iran at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Iran and they performed above expectations. They defeated a strong Moroccan side in their opening match before being edged out by the Spanish and eventually sharing a 1-1 draw with Portugal in their final game.

Queiroz’s philosophy is renowned for being a bit of a difficult watch with the over-arching view being to frustrate the opposition. Whilst that remains the case, their attack has become slightly more developed and should benefit against sides that will dominate the possession.

The likes of Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi up-front have shown their quality in the UEFA Champions League this season and with Alireza Jahanabakhsh and Saman Ghoddos in positions to provide, teams will have to be wary. Sadergh Moharrami has also gained plaudits for his UEFA Champions League performances for Dinamo Zagreb.

The Iranians perhaps have fewer well-known players in their squad than the United States and Wales but they will be more than confident of toppling either or both of those sides.

TSZ Prediction: Round of 16


FIFA ranking: 16

FIFA World Cup appearances: 11th Entry

FIFA World Cup best: Third (1930)

Manager: Gregg Berhalter

Captain: Various

After their humiliating failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, the US men’s national team are aiming to return to the global stage in style and the knockout stages are a must for Gregg Berhalter.

The Stars and Stripes have plenty of young talent that has come through in recent years and it could well be argued that this is a ‘golden generation’ for the North American giants. The likes of Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna complement a well-balanced attack alongside Brenden Aaronson and Timothy Weah. In midfield, they have the very impressive duo of Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, too.

Even defensively, the US have areas covered with the left-hand side of a back-four performing well in the Premier League with Fulham in Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson. Sergino Dest alongside Cameron Carter-Vickers on the other side sit in front of Arsenal’s Matt Turner in goal.

Without veering into just listing names, this is a very impressive ‘roster’ as the Americans would say and, for once, expectations being high seems relatively fair.

However, Berhalter has consistently struggled to either identify his strongest side or have his strongest side available throughout his tenure. Whilst results have improved, to the point Berhalter has the best win percentage of any US coach ever, their September performances and results were a good representation of where the team is at on a global scale.

They were held to a goalless draw by a solid Saudi Arabian side after failing to have a shot on target in a 2-0 defeat against Japan. This is a developing side that might be ready to peak when they host the tournament in 2026 but, for now, it seems they could flatter to deceive.

TSZ Prediction: Group stage


FIFA ranking: 19

FIFA World Cup appearances: Second Entry

FIFA World Cup best: Quarter-finals (1958)

Manager: Rob Page

Captain: Gareth Bale

The last decade or so has been a memorable one for the Welsh national football team. The progression, both on and off the pitch, has been startling. From qualifying for their first UEFA European Championship in 2016, reaching the semi-finals of that tournament and then backing it up by reaching the knockouts of UEFA Euro 2020 to reaching their second ever FIFA World Cup and their first since 1958.

Under the management of Rob Page, Wales have evolved their style with the benefit of several key young players that have come through a production system that has thrived for a few years now.

Many will hope this is indeed just the start of something for a bulk of the squad that could establish themselves in the coming years but it is hard to look the past the fact it could well be the end for many.

The main man and captain, Gareth Bale, looks likely to retire after the 2022 FIFA World Cup and has played just 28 minutes of football since September. Whilst Bale seems motivated and determined for Welsh success and whilst moments of magic from the 33 year-old cannot and should not be ruled out, it doesn’t seem like the best preparation for such an important tournament.

Aside from Bale, Aaron Ramsey’s career has also been on a bit of a slide in recent seasons after a disappointing spell at Juventus and a tough start to life in Nice this season. Seven of the 26-man squad are 30 or over and a further five 27 or above. It is an ageing squad that have had some difficult results of late.

Their 1-0 defeat at home to Poland in September capped off a six-match winless UEFA Nations League campaign and they have won just two of their last ten games.

TSZ Prediction: Group stage

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