Who: England vs Iran, Group B
Where: Khalifa International Stadium
When: Monday, November 21 (16:00 local time, 13:00 GMT)
rankings: England (5), Iran (20)
head to head: First match
Last five games: England LDDLL, Iran LWLWD
The first match of perhaps the most politically charged group pits England against Iran at the 40,000-capacity Khalifa International Stadium on Monday.
Given the historically tense relations between the two countries, the only chance for the soccer teams to face off would have come at a global tournament and they’ve managed to avoid each other until now.
Adding to the political tension between Iran and its three Western group members, all four teams are in the top 20 of the standings, earning them the dreaded nickname of the “Group of Death.”
England are favorites to advance from the group based on their ranking, previous results and tournament history. However, Gareth Southgate’s side have lost three and drawn three games in their UEFA Nations League fixtures this summer leading them to relegation.
Southgate have named a strong 26-man squad for the World Cup, and are hoping their best players from last year’s Euros will return to their best form. Captain Harry Kane will lead the attack with Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka. Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham and Mason Mount also make up for a strong midfield. England’s problems, however, have been in defense where Southgate has been unable to prevent goals from slipping through.
Iran will look to exploit this weakness with star striker Mehdi Taremi leading the attack, supported by Sardar Azmoun and Alireza Jahanbakhsh.
Iran’s Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz will be looking to employ his defending tactics to contain the English attacking talent. Iran have had a good run of results in recent friendlies with wins over Uruguay and Lebanon.
During the second stage of their World Cup campaign, Iran won eight of their 10 games and topped their group ahead of South Korea. While the qualifying campaign was led by Croatian coach Dragan Skocic, Team Melli supporters are hoping Queiroz’s return before a world tournament plays out in their favor.
Iran will hope to leave their first meeting with at least one point. And with the USA out of shape and Wales close behind like the other two teams in the group, Queiroz’s side will have a chance to upset and qualify for the knockout round at the World Cup for the first time. .
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