World Cup 2022 Group B: It's the group many are calling the "Group of Death" -- though in this year's iteration of the World Cup, multiple groups could claim that title. What Group B has going for it is the distinction of having the highest average FIFA Ranking, as all four teams in the group are ranked in Top 20. The four nations making up Group B are England, the USA, Wales and Iran. How do these teams stack up, and which has the best shot to emerge from the Group Stage in Qatar?
England (5th in FIFA World Rankings)
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Fresh off their defeat in the finals of the UEFA Euro 2020, the Three Lions enter this FIFA World Cup as favorites from Group B to advance to the Round of 16. However, like many others, manager Gareth Southgate's team enters Qatar a bit banged up. Both Reece James and Ben Chilwell were injured in different Champions League matches for club side Chelsea FC. Kalvin Phillips was injured in September and hasn't played since, either for England or in the Premier League. Of those three, James was an almost guaranteed lock to be England's starting right back, and he recently posted on social media how devastated he was to be missing the World Cup. Still, even with some injuries and out-of-form players (looking at you, Trent Alexander-Arnold), the Three Lions are stacked all over the pitch, from Harry Kane leading the attack all the way back to Jordan Pickford minding the net. This might be the best chance in years that England has to "bring football home."
Southgate made a couple notable decisions when naming his World Cup roster, especially the inclusion of Phillips over the likes of James Ward-Prowse, and some aging center backs over the likes of Fikayo Tomori. After swearing to pick players on form over reputation years ago, Southgate's side has many people questioning if this is the strongest possible version of the England team to be in this World Cup Group.
United States of America (16th in FIFA World Rankings)
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The U.S. Men's National Soccer Team has never finished better than third place in the World Cup. That came in a victory in the semifinal of the 1930 World Cup. Since then, they've only made it to the quarterfinals once, in 2002. Last World Cup, they famously -- or, rather, infamously -- lost in their last match of qualifying to Trinidad and Tobago, and missed the World Cup all together. It is that very fact that led to something of a changing of the guard for the United States. That has resulted in the second-youngest roster the USMNT has ever entered in a World Cup behind the 1990 team, and it will also be one of the youngest teams at FIFA World Cup 2022.
Here is the team head coach Gregg Berhalter has selected to go to Qatar:
In list form. ?
Full Roster Details » https://t.co/bQXU2MSmXh#USMNT x @budweiserusa https://t.co/625oOUeEJb pic.twitter.com/Bd5aQQZ24d
— U.S. Men's National Soccer Team (@USMNT) November 9, 2022
Aside from DeAndre Yedlin -- and Berhalter himself, I suppose -- not a single member of this squad has played in a World Cup. Current Chelsea forward Christian Pulisic is the household name at this point for the USMNT, but he is far from the only young talent on the squad. Only nine players play in MLS, while more play for big European Clubs than ever before. They include the likes of Weston McKennie and Sergino Dest playing in Italy's Serie A; Premier League players Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson at Leeds United; Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson at Fulham; Pulisic at Chelsea; and Matt Turner at Arsenal. So while this team may not have a lot of International experience, it is plenty experienced at the club level in big European competitions.
Much like England, there are a couple notable absences and surprising inclusions. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen was likely the biggest shock to not be included among the 26 men who received the call. Likewise, the inclusion of defender Ream was surprising, though likely due to an injury to Crystal Palace center back Chris Richards. Forwards Haji Wright and Jordan Morris were chosen over fan favorites Ricardo Pepi and Jordan Pefok. Even with its failure to make the last World Cup, anything short of a Round of 16 appearance will have to be considered a failure by this version of the USMNT.
Wales (19th in FIFA World Rankings)
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The name everyone will know and focus on from the Welsh team is superstar Gareth Bale. Fresh off a late equalizer in extra time of the MLS Cup Final, Bale is one of the biggest stars in the entire group, not just his own team. But Wales has plenty of talent outside of the man bun pioneer Bale, especially with young defenders Neco Williams, Ethan Ampadu and Ben Davies. Add in Aaron Ramsey, Dan James and Danny Ward, and it's very possible the Wales National Team will become just as well known as Welsh club AFC Wrexham.
Wales' path through qualifying was more difficult than it was for the rest of Group B. That's because when the draw was made, it was still one of three possible options waiting on playing the UEFA second-round playoff. Wales had already beaten Austria and was waiting on the winner of a postponed match between Ukraine and Scotland to earn the final spot in Qatar. The match was postponed because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. So after Ukraine won an emotional match against Scotland, it met Wales four days later but could not find a way to break the Welsh team down, with the match finishing 1-0 for Wales. It was a match where seemingly the entire world was cheering for Ukraine, so for Wales to find a way to win that match shows just how tough it will be.
Iran (20th in FIFA World Rankings)
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Iran is making its third straight FIFA World Cup appearance, and while it has never advanced beyond the group stage in the past, to count it out prematurely this year would be a mistake. The highest-ranked team from Asia present in Qatar, Iran plays a counter attacking style based around its stellar defense that can frustrate even the best offensive sides. Factor in its matches in Doha, Al Rayyan, and Qatar's Al Thumama stadium will very likely feel like home -- and Iran will not settle for a low spot in the group standings.
The biggest challenge for the Iran National Team may just be off the pitch. Amid violent protests in its home country -- as well as some saying it shouldn't be allowed to participate in this year's World Cup after allegations that Iran supplied Russia with drones it is using against Ukraine -- there is a lot of controversy surrounding Iran. (Almost as much as there is surrounding Qatar itself.) The Iranian players, however, have refused to celebrate any win -- or even goal -- since the protests started, all the way down to the local league level. Will the players be able to not only concentrate on football but also continue to use their platform as a way to oppose atrocities and avoid "sportswashing" their nation?
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So how will Group B shake out? Is it really the Group of Death? It's hard to say just what will happen. As previously mentioned, all of Iran's matches will likely not feel like neutral-location matches, which means all bets are off. In the first set of matches, will Kellyn Acosta and the USMNT be able to get the better of LAFC teammate Bale and Wales? How will the Black Friday showdown between the USA and England play out? Will England's streak of not being able to beat the USMNT continue? And there's no telling what will happen when two teams from the same United Kingdom meet in the final group stage match. On paper, England and the United States should see their way to the Round of 16. But then again, the FIFA World Cup isn't played on paper, is it?
Other World Cup Groups
- Group A: Qatar, Netherlands, Ecuador, Senegal
- Group C: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland
- Group D: France, Australia, Denmark, Tunisia
- Group E: Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, Japan
- Group F: Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia
- Group G: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon
- Group H: Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea
World Cup Schedule
- Group Stage: Nov. 20-Dec. 2
- Round of 16: Dec. 3-6
- Quarterfinals: Dec. 9-10 at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Lusail Iconic Stadium in Lusail, Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.
- Semifinals: Dec. 13-14, with matches held at Lusail Iconic Stadium in Lusail and Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.
- Third-place Playoff: Dec. 17 at Khalifa International Stadium in Al Rayyan.
- World Cup Final: Dec. 18 at Lusail Iconic Stadium in Lusail.
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