Group B of the 2022 FIFA World Cup has got to be the most interesting group in the tournament, and it is not just for the football.
England, USA, Iran and Wales are unlike a group we have ever seen in the 92-year history of the global showpiece.
Though England and USA have been in the same group on two different occasions: the 1950 and 2010 tournaments, it is a little too early for them to meet up once again in the group stages based on history. It is an opportunity as fans will be watching England trying to stop their World Cup curse against the Americans.
Wales, meanwhile, will be playing in their first tournament since 1958 – 54 years ago – and despite the experience in the squad, will be giving a different face to World Cup competition.
Political undertones and silent rivalries will make the group an interesting one to follow. Hopefully there will be no fan violence at the games, but fans at home can expect the atmosphere to be as lively as can be, which should make for an immersive viewing experience for all three matches in the group.
Kicking things off will be England and Iran in the early kickoff on November 21, before USA take on Wales in the late kickoff.
We will now preview the group and predict the final standings of each team in the rest of the article, taking into account their strengths and weaknesses.
Strengths and Weaknesses
England are the outright favourites in this group for a lot of reasons including player quality, experience, and historical backing. But their major strength lies somewhere that is often ignored.
England are one of the teams going to the World Cup whose squad depth is of the utmost quality. 90 percent of the players on the England squad are starters for their clubs. With the special dispensation granted to teams to bring 26 men to Qatar, England can field two first teams comfortably.
If Gareth Southgate finds a way to make the team work.
England have struggled to find the best formation for all the quality they have and this, if not fixed by the time the World Cup starts, will cause problems for them.
The USMNT are a young team made up of players who have mostly played with each other since their days in the age grade teams.
Herein lies their strength: their understanding of how each member of the team likes to play. This, plus the experience of some of their players who are now in the big club leagues, can count for them as they attempt to better their last outing at the tournament.
Their youth is also their weakness, as most of the players who will be at the tournament have never felt the aura of a World Cup before. Teams will smell blood and it could spell doom for the USA.
The Iran team adopts the cheetah as their mascot because they are a team built for speed.
The team is full of running with players who possess good technical qualities. Their aces, Mehdi Taremi and Sardar Azmoun are threats that, if unleashed together, could cause a shock at the tournament.
History is not on their side in the World Cup, however, and this could prove to be a weakness for the team if they decide to play safe instead of playing like they are used to.
Wales have gained a tenacity forged over 64 years and every team in Group B will do well to remember that this horde of dragons are hungry.
This tenacity will be their strength as they prepare to give a good account of themselves in their second ever World Cup appearance.
They are, however, lacking in midfield controllers and if any of their opponents chooses to battle it out in the middle of the park, Wales will come out as second best.
Match previews and predictions
England and Iran face off in the first game of the group. The Three Lions will then go on to face USA before rounding up with Wales. Iran will face Wales after England before rounding up with USA.
Wales and USA will open their campaign against each other, before the United Kingdom nation go on to face Iran and then play in the UK derby with England. Meanwhile, USA will face England after Wales before rounding up with Iran.
England are expected to win three out of three but with the instability shown in the games leading up to the World Cup, they could struggle against Iran, who are resolute in their football and possess strikers who are quick, agile and excellent finishers.
USA is the team expected to finish in second place. However, this will be dependent on whether Wales manage to get a result against Iran.
Final group places prediction
England and USA will finish in first and second place. Iran will narrowly miss out on second place and finish in third, while Wales will finish in the bottom spot.