England is still looking to bring it home. The World Cup has not returned to the island since 1966. This England squad has showcased they are the best England squad in terms of success so far. In 2018, England finished 4th in the World Cup in Russia. The highest place since the 1966 victory. Last year, they made it to the Euro 2020 finals, before losing out on penalties to Italy (6th). As crazy as this sounds, after all of the “Golden Generations” that England has had. 2020 was the highest finish in the European Championship for England. This is England’s “Golden Generation” for success. England’s form is the biggest question about this team. They have been dreadful since March. Not having a single win through 6 games, including a battering at the hands of Hungary(36th), England lost 4-0.
England’s Strength is its depth. The likes of Mason Mount, Reece James, and Bukayo Saka are on the bench, all game-changers who are good enough to play on the best clubs in the world but are substitute players for England.
England’s Weakness (besides penalties) is their centre-backs. They are the biggest thing holding England back from winning it all. Eric Dier is a fine centre-back. However, he is not a world-class centre-back. Harry Maguire, a reputation for being slow and error-prone, led to a total of 16 errors that resulted in a shot from the opposition over the 2021-2022 Premier League season to the point of being benched by Manchester United this campaign. John Stones is a quality defender when he is not injured. He arrived at Manchester City 6 years ago. Since then, He has missed 55 games or nearly 1 and a half seasons of Premier League soccer. If there is a position to stop England from winning. It will be centre-back.
Player to Watch: Harry Kane
The 29-year-old is in form at his club. 10 goals through 10 games. Harry Kane has been capped 75 times and has scored 51 times for England in 7 years. Kane will be the driving force for England on the attack. Kane will likely surpass Wayne Rooney as England’s top goal scorer this tournament.
Iran may be a first in the group, or they may not be eligible to play. A petition is making the rounds to disqualify Iran because of the mass protests and human rights violations occurring in the country currently. For the sake of the article, Iran is going to play. Iran topped their group in the 2019 Asian Cup without allowing a goal throughout the group stage. Iran finished 3rd in the 2019 Asian Cup. Iran’s history with the World Cup is rough, recording only two wins in their six appearances. Iran’s form is decent, with a win over Uraguay(14th) and a draw against Senegal. With losses at the hands of Algeria(37th) and South Korea(28th).
Iran’s Strength is its versatility. Multiple players, who can proficiently play back on the wings and through the midfield allow for mid-game adjustments that can throw off their opponents.
Iran’s Weakness is they do not have a creative midfielder to transition the ball from defense to offense. This is a vital need for all teams that are hoping to compete. Iran needs to find one before it can take the next step.
Player/s to Watch:Mehdi Taremi/Sardar Azmoun
Mehdi Taremi is the other one to watch for, 60 caps with nearly 30 goals is not someone to be underestimated. A man who is a playmaker on the wing that can score. Contributing to 32 goals for his club FC Porto.
If healthy, Sardar Azmoun. The 27-year-old forward has 65 caps and 41 goals. Azmoun is a danger in the attack because of his speed and size. However, he may not be fit for the tournament.
United States (16th)
The underdog is no longer the underdog. The United States qualified for the World Cup after failing in 2018. They bounced back finishing 2nd in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2019 and then winning it in 2021, allowing only one goal throughout the entire tournament. The United States is experiencing a “Golden Generation” with the talents of Christian Pulisic on the wing, Giovanni Reyna in the midfield, and Sergiño Dest in defense. All incredibly young, playing for some of the best teams in Europe. The United States is currently in mediocre form, with wins over Grenada(173rd) and Morocco(22nd), drawing with Uruguay(14th) and Saudi Arabia(51st), and losses to Japan(24th) and Costa Rica (31st).
The United States’ Strength is the team’s mentality it has maintained despite climbing so high in the rankings. That is their underdog mentality. In the past, the United States was always the weaker team than others because of the lack of passion for soccer in the United States. This created a fighting spirit that the United States needed to compete. They have maintained this spirit with the development of the current crop of players.
The United States’ Weakness is player injury proneness. Christian Pulisic has been the healthiest recently, missing 16 games in the last two seasons, Sergiño Dest has missed 19 games since the start of the 2021-2022 season, and is currently out with muscle fatigue, and Giovanni Reyna has missed 40 games for Borussia Dortmund since the start of the 2021-2022 season. The US needs to stay healthy to go far, which could be a problem because of the congestion of the schedule.
Player to Watch: Brenden Aaronson
The 22-year-old has good first touch on the ball and pace. His best trait is his vision and passing ability. Aaronson will be influential in the United States. With his ability to move the ball up the pitch.
Wales and World Cup do not go together. This is Wales’ second time qualifying for the World Cup since Nazi Germany was a country. They had a decent run in 1958 when they reached the quarter-finals. Wales had some success in the European Championship, placing 3rd in 2016 and making it out of the group stage in the 2020 iteration. Wales snuck into the tournament via the playoffs after the group stage qualifiers while they defeated Austria(34th) and Ukraine(27th). Their form has been in a rapid decline since then. They have lost 5 of their last 6 games in the Nations League and drew against Belgium (2nd).
Wales’ Strength is its forwards with the likes of Gareth Bale, who still performs on the international level, Brennan Johnson, and Daniel James. Johnson and James are studying under one of Wales’s best forwards is invaluable.
Wales’ Weakness is its midfield. Joe Morrell is in the line-up, who struggles for playing time in Sky Bet League One(basically the Divison 3 of English soccers), Matthew Smith also plays in League One. Both are regular presences in the national team as of late.
Player to Watch: Brennan Johnson
The 21-year-old striker has been in good form, providing 2 goals and 1 assist through 5 appearances for Wales, with one of them being the equalizer against Belgium. Johnson can set up scores for his teammates. He can put the ball in the net himself.
- England 1st
- United States 2nd
- Iran 3rd
- Wales 4th
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