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2022 World Cup Group B Preview: Does USA Have a Chance to Qualify?

2022 World Cup Group B Preview: Does USA Have a Chance to Qualify? article feature image
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Brad Smith, Visionhaus/Getty. Pictured: Christian Pulisic, Harry Kane.

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is set to get underway, and our soccer experts are here to provide you with a full preview. 

Read on for analysis of Group B in the tournament, featuring the United States, England, Wales and Iran.

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World Cup Group B Preview

USA

The United States are back in the World Cup after missing out in 2018. They are in a new era looking to make their mark on the world’s stage. With a lot of the United States’ star players under the age of 26, it’s going to be exciting to see if they can get past the Round of 16 for the first time since 2002. 

It was a good CONCACAF Qualifying campaign for the Stars and Stripes , finishing third in the hexagonal and earning an automatic qualification to the World Cup. The United States had good underlying metrics, but they had a few questionable results away from home. They averaged 1.7 xG per 90 minutes while only allowing 0.72 xG per 90 minutes over their 14 World Cup Qualifying matches, which is impressive. However, losing on the road and getting out-played by Panama and Canada leaves a few question marks for the US side. 

For the first time in United States history, most of their players are playing overseas in Europe’s biggest leagues. The Stars and Stripes have 13 of their 26 players on their roster playing in one of Europe’s top five leagues and five players currently playing in the English Premier League. 

Chances To… Action Projections bet365 Odds
Win Group Stage 15.31% +550
Advance To Knockout Round 55.95% +100
Win World Cup 1.06% +15000
Odds as of publish. Action projections by Nick Giffen of the Action Predictive Analytics team.

It’s up in the air who will start in goal for the United States. Matt Turner has made his move to be the backup goalkeeper for Arsenal, while Zack Steffen is on loan at Middlesbrough in the English Championship this season. Steffen has not been performing well, as he has a -2.5 post shot xG +/-, per fbref.com. So, we may see Greg Berhalter prefer Turner, who is in better form. 

In defense, Walker Zimmerman is locked in at one of the center back spots with the other up for grabs at the moment. Sergino Dest, who is currently playing at AC Milan, will be starting at right back, with the left back position in question between Antonee Robinson or Joe Scally, who are both promising options. 

The midfield in Berhalter’s 4-3-3 system is very straightforward: It’ll be Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah, who are all in great form at the club level and should be able to dominate the games against Wales and Iran. 

Up front, star player Christian Pulisic will be playing on the left with Giovanni Reyna on the right. The middle is a question mark, and Berhalter has a decision to make. He could go with the in-form Jesús Ferreira, who seemingly fits his system the best, or it could be Timothy Weah or Brendan Aaronson as a false nine. Either way, the United States have a lot of talented options up top. 

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England

The question everyone has been asking for decades now is, “When is football coming home?” 

England were a penalty shootout away from bringing home their first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup at the Euros last year. In terms of talent, you are not going to find a country with more depth than this current English team. 

The Three Lions obliterated everyone in their path during World Cup qualifying, winning eight matches, drawing only twice and putting up 25.1 xG while only allowing 5.2. Even during the European Championships in the summer of 2021, England did not lose the xG battle until the final match against Italy, and a lot of that had to do with the fact that they scored in the first five minutes then decided to play ultra-defensive for the remainder of the match. 

Chances To… Action Projections bet365 Odds
Win Group Stage 73.81% -300
Advance To Knockout Round 92.91% -1400
Win World Cup 16.67% +800
Odds as of publish. Action projections by Nick Giffen of the Action Predictive Analytics team.

The goalkeeping position is pretty set with Everton’s Jordan Pickford between the posts. He amassed five consecutive clean sheets during the Euros. The center back pairing is a question mark right now. During the Euros and World Cup qualifying, Harry Maguire and John Stones were a solid pairing in Gareth Southgate’s 4-2-3-1 system.

However, Maguire has been injured and completely out of form at Manchester United, so that means Southgate will most likely have to choose between Marc Guehi, Eric Dier or Fikayo Tomori, who are all fantastic options to go along with Stones. 

Trent Alexander-Arnold is slated to start at right back with Reece James and Kyle Walker both looking like they are going to miss the World Cup due to injury. The left back position will be between Ben Chilwell or Luke Shaw, with Chillwell bring in better form at the moment. 

England truly have the best midfield in this entire tournament with Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham being a defensive midfield pairing of dreams. Mason Mount is in incredible form for Chelsea at the moment, and it’s looking like he will be occupying the attacking midfielder role, while Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka should start at right midfield. Who is going to start on the left is the question right now, as Raheem Sterling was Southgate’s most dependable option during the Euros, scoring three goals and taking the most shots on the team, but he could opt for Manchester City’s Phil Foden or Jack Grealish. 

It’s no surprise that Harry Kane is the main man up front for England, as he is still playing at the level of one of the best strikers in the world. 

England should be one of the tournament favorites despite their cursed history. There is simply too much talent on this Three Lions squad to be anything but.

Wales

It’s possible that we overlook just how important continuity and commitment are when it comes to handicapping international soccer tournaments — and Wales are a perfect case study.

After years in the wilderness, the Dragons wrote a fairytale story at Euro 2016 when Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey propelled them to the semifinals, where they lost to the eventual winners, Portugal. Wales won their group with wins over Slovakia and Russia, then defeated Northern Ireland and Belgium to make it to the Final Four. 

Five years later, Wales again surprised at the European Championships, making it to the knockout rounds by going 1-1-1 with a win over Turkey, a draw against Switzerland and a hard-fought 1-0 loss to Italy. The Dragons would get pasted 4-0 in the Round of 16, but the hard feelings didn’t linger, as they finished the group stage of World Cup Qualifying with a draw against Belgium to earn a playoff with Austria. Wales defeated Austria and then Ukraine to qualify for their second-ever World Cup and their first since 1958. It was bedlam in Cardiff.

Chances To… Action Projections bet365 Odds
Win Group Stage 8.78% +600
Advance To Knockout Round 37.91% +110
Win World Cup 0.30% +20000
Odds as of publish. Action projections by Nick Giffen of the Action Predictive Analytics team.

Everything with Wales begins and ends with Gareth Bale. At the height of his powers, Bale was one of the world’s best attacking players. He’s well past his best days now and his commitment to club football has been called into question, but the 33-year-old always seems to save his best for the Dragons.

Bale’s supporting cast, which still includes mainstays from 2016 like Ramsey and Joe Allen, might be lacking in starpower, but Wales’ best asset is their commitment and chemistry. That can make them hard to beat and a threat to pull off an upset against a team like, say, England, but it’s also not going to be enough for this team to realistically make a deep run. The ceiling for Wales is that they will provide a couple of big moments and perhaps sneak into the knockout stages, and frankly, that’s enough for a team that is making their first trip to the World Cup since 1958.

There is genuine belief that this story doesn’t just end with a ticket to Qatar. Drawn into a group with their eternal rivals, England, the USA and Iran, it’s really a coin flip on whether or not Wales will advance. In all likelihood, Wales will need a result from their opener on Nov. 21 to get through, but they also caught a break by avoiding England until the last match of the round robin. It’s a manageable draw for the Dragons.

Wales have shown that their style of play and chemistry make them a tough out in these formats. If the World Cup was played over the course of six months and teams played 20 games, the Dragons would eventually be doomed by their lack of talent and depth. But in a short format, where four points is usually enough to get you through to the Round of 16, all bets are off.

Iran

Iran come into the World Cup after finishing first in their qualification group over South Korea. 

You won’t find a more disciplined defensive side than Iran in this tournament. During World Cup qualifying, Iran allowed only 0.99 xG per 90 minutes. This will be their third straight World Cup, but they’ve failed to qualify out of the group stage in the last two. That doesn’t mean they haven’t put in good showings. In the last World Cup, Iran beat Morocco in their first match, lost 1-0 to Spain then ended up drawing 1-1 with Portugal on a late penalty. 

Top to bottom, this Iran roster doesn’t have much talent playing at the highest level in Europe, but they do have two really good strikers that make them frightening on the counterattack. 

Chances To… Action Projections bet365 Odds
Win Group Stage 2.10% +1600
Advance To Knockout Round 13.23% +350
Win World Cup 0.02% +50000
Odds as of publish. Action projections by Nick Giffen of the Action Predictive Analytics team.

Sardar Azmoun spent a number of years at Zenit St. Petersburg in the Russian Premier League ,and he made a move to Bayer Leverkusen in the German Bundesliga in January of 2022, but he has yet to fully feature for the side, playing only seven full 90s over the past year. Iran also have Porto striker Mehdi Taremi, who has scored over 16 goals and had over a 0.60 xG per 90 minute scoring rate in the Portuguese Primeira Liga over the last three seasons. 

Iran do play an ultra conservative-defensive style that didn’t show up much throughout qualification, but in their two matches against South Korea it was very evident, as it was during their last two World Cups, so they will be well-equipped to play without the ball when they take on England and the United States. 

As far as their prospects of getting out of this group? They need to beat Wales and get a result against the United States to have any shot of making it to the Round of 16 for the first time in the country’s history. 

Group B Schedule

Date Time Match
Nov. 21 8 a.m. ET England vs. Iran
Nov. 21 2 p.m. ET USA vs. Wales
Nov. 25 5 a.m. ET Wales vs. Iran
Nov. 25 2 p.m. ET England vs. USA
Nov. 29 2 p.m. ET Iran vs. USA
Nov. 29 2 p.m. ET Wales vs. England

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