Who: England vs Iran, Group B
Where: Khalifa International Stadium
When: Monday, November 21 (4pm local time, 13:00 GMT)
Rankings: England (5), Iran (20)
Head to head: First match
Last five matches: England LDDLL, Iran LWLWD
The first match of perhaps the most politically charged group pits England against Iran at the 40,000-seat Khalifa International Stadium on Monday.
In addition to the political tension between Iran and its three Western group members, all four teams are in the top 20 of the standings, giving them the dreaded nickname “Group of Death.”
England is the favorite to advance from the group based on their rankings, previous results, and tournament history. However, Gareth Southgate’s side has lost three and drawn three games in their UEFA Nations League matches this summer that led to their relegation.
Southgate has named a strong 26-man squad for the World Cup and hopes its best players from last year’s European Championship will return to their best form. Captain Harry Kane will lead the attack with players such as 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 them from losing goals.
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 look to employ his heavy defensive tactics to contain England’s attacking talent. Iran has had a good run of results in recent friendlies with victories over Uruguay and Lebanon.
Iran hopes to emerge from its initial encounter with at least one point. And with the United States out of shape and Wales, who are in the first place, being the other two teams in the group, Queiroz’s team will have a chance to pull off a surprise and qualify for the knockout round at the World Cup for the first time.
Source: AL JAZEERA
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