World Cup Group B Preview

11/15/2022

We are approaching that time of the year where the world stops as we all passionately enjoy the beautiful game of Fútbol-yes, even us Americans! There is a significance to this year's World Cup due to the fact that it's being held in November instead of June-we don't want people melting in that Qatari heat. If this is your first rodeo, it's okay, you came to the right place because by the time you're done reading the last word of this article, you will know more footy than the average fan.


England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

Strength: Vengeance

"It's coming home, it's coming home, football is coming home." After finishing as semi-finalist in the 2018 World Cup and finalist in the 2020 UEFA Euros, progress implies that the Three Lions will conquer their second World Cup trophy this December. Manager Gareth Southgate deserves some credit for England's recent success, as his defensive approach has guided this squad to deep runs in previous major tournaments. In the 2020 UEFA Euros, England conceded just two goals, and their strong defensive efforts allowed them to punish teams off counter attacks. Paul "Bear" Bryant once said, "offense sells tickets but defense wins championships." Can the Three Lions' pragmatic style bring football home?

Weakness: Cautiousness

For all of England's recent success in major tournaments, Gareth Southgate may be feeling some pressure from the English FA due to the Three Lions being relegated to the UEFA Nations League B tier. Their lackluster attack seems to be the reasoning for the underwhelming performances in Nations League play as they only scored 4 goals in 6 games. Many criticize Southgate for turning England into a one-dimensional team since the squad does not do well in games where they have to dictate the possession. For example, when England traveled away to Italy, the Italians sat back and dared the Three Lions to progress play towards goal. As shown above, England's lack of ideas caused congestion in their attack, making it easy for Italy to play off the counter and score the game's lone goal. If Southgate plans to keep his job past the 2022 World Cup, he must bring to light his squad's versatility in order to hurt teams either off the counterattack or through the dominance of possession.

Player to Watch

Bukayo Saka (Arsenal, England)

5 Goals, 6 Assists in 19 Games
* 4th in Premier League for goal contributions (10)

Starting 11 for Success

The Three Lions prefer to have numbers behind during their attack, in case of an opposing counterattack; hence, they will likely set up in a back 3. The wingbacks will have to invert into the midfield, to allow the wingers to be isolated wide and high up the field. One of the center midfielders will be given a license to roam into the attacking third to link up play and unlock channels for the frontline.


Iran 🇮🇷

Strength: Organization

Team Melli has qualified for 4 out of the last 5 World Cups but unfortunately, they have not progressed past the group stage. The Persian side are looking to break this regime as they were placed in a favorable group with opponents that are not efficient at playing the enforcer role in the course of a game. Team Melli likes to bait their opposition into sending many numbers forward during an attack. Once the opponent is caught out in the defensive trap, Iran will look to play vertically into the wide channels left open by the fullbacks. Taking advantage of these attacking gaps will be the experienced frontline of Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Mehdi Taremi, and Sardar Azmoun. With 103 goal contributions in 62 games, the Iranian trio will definitely cause headaches for England, the United States, and Wales.

Weakness: Adaptability

On September 7, 2022, former Manchester United assistant, Carlos Queiroz was rehired as the head coach of Team Melli. Queiroz will only have a couple of training camps to install his philosophies; hence, he will be leaning on the players that were a part of his 2018 World Cup squad to lead the inexperienced players.

Player to Watch

Mehdi Taremi (FC Porto, Portugal)

11 Goals, 6 Assists in 17 Games
* Leads Liga Portugal in goal contributions per90 (0.89)

Starting 11 for Success

Queiroz's men will set up in a 4-1-4-1 midblock making the field as compact as possible. This will force opposing teams to overload the wide areas in Iran's middle third, allowing Iran to attack the channels created through their opponents playing too aggressively.


USA 🇺🇸

Strength: Fearlessness

For many generations the USMNT has built an identity on having a never say die attitude which has produced some great World Cup moments such as their incredible run to the quarterfinals in the 2002 tournament, as well as the infamous Landon Donovan game winner to take the Yanks atop of Group C in 2010. It has been 8 years since the United States participated in the World Cup and Gregg Berhalter is seeking to take his fairly young squad to new heights in Qatar. Setting the tone, the Yanks enjoy playing a high tempo style, forcing teams to keep up with their fierce pace. With electrifying talent like Brenden Aaronson, Giovanni Reyna, and Weston McKennie, the new generation of the USMNT will be looking to turn some heads this upcoming winter.

Weakness: Efficiency

Even though the United States are a fast-paced team, they struggle when it comes to having an end product. During the Concacaf World Cup qualifiers, the Yanks missed 19 out of their 25 big chances created which means that majority of their goals came from either set pieces or low goal scoring probabilities. Hence as a team that depends on two difficult factors to score, the United States will have their work cut out against three opponents that are solid defensively.

Player to Watch

Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United, England)

1 Goal & Assist, 2.23 Key Passes per90* in 13 Games * Top 10 in Premier League

Starting 11 for Success

Berhalter wants his side to create overloads in the attack, especially in the middle of the park. The center backs will be in charge of progressing play out wide to the fullbacks, who are tasked with occupying the entire flanks, or straight to the wingers, who will be sitting in the half spaces looking to be direct in possession. It should be noted to be aware of the 8 and 10 of the Yanks' midfield as they will look to make late runs into the box as possession takes place in the attacking third.


Wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Strength: Smash and Grab

The phrase smash and grab is normally used when a robber breaks a window and proceeds to steal any valuable items that are present. Well in the language of soccer, smash and grab means when one team wins a game via absorbing pressure for the majority of time and scoring off of the minimal chances created. It's a style of play that fits and guides robust teams like Wales to unlikely victories (i.e., the Welsh's 1-0 win over Ukraine in the European World Cup qualifying playoffs).

Weakness: Discipline

As mentioned before Wales is a very robust squad and unfortunately, it leads to silly mistakes that can take games out of manageable circumstances for the Dragons. In their most recent competitions, Wales finished on the podium for cards given as they were shown 40 yellow and 3 red cards. The Dragons can be a nuisance to play against as long as they figure out how to stay out of card trouble during the game.

Player to Watch

Wayne Hennessey (Nottingham Forest, England)

 2.7 Saves per90 in Nations League

Starting 11 for Success

Expect Wales to roll out a 5-2-3 formation which will allow them to play route-one footy to their gigantic center forward, Kiefer Moore, who looks to link up with center midfielders, Joe Allen, and Aaron Ramsey. The center mids will advance the attack to the speedy wingers in behind or spread the ball wide for the wingbacks to serve the frontline.


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