When England were placed into a World Cup group with Iran, United States and Wales, many Three Lions fan felt it was a dream draw for Qatar.
The Three Lions, beaten finalists in last year’s European Championships, are clear favourites to win their group and are one of the favourites to lift the trophy next month.
Gareth Southgate, upon discovering England’s opponents in April, offered a word of caution as he said the draw was trickier than the rankings suggest.
England are the heavy favourites to progress through Group B into the knockout stage
Gareth Southgate warned when he found out who England would play in Qatar that the draw was trickier than the FIFA world rankings would make people expect for the tournament
Going into the tournament, which starts on Sunday, England are placed No 5 in FIFA’s rankings while the USA (16), Wales (19) and Iran (20) are all respectably sitting inside the top 20.
England though go into the World Cup in shaky form having failed to win their last six games, with three defeats including their heavy 4-0 loss to Hungary in the Nations League.
The United States and Wales will be hoping to make the most out of England’s troublesome form, and both sides have players that could punish the Three Lions if they don’t start playing like the side that reached the semi-finals four years ago or the final at Euro 2020.
Iran are the weakest team in the group but both Uruguay and African Cup of Nations winners Senegal failed to beat the nation in friendlies just two months ago.
With just days before Group B gets underway when England play Iran and Wales face the United States, Sportsmail guides you through each of England’s opponents.
England arrive into Qatar in poor form having not won any of their last six matches
The squad they picked
Goalkeepers: Ethan Horvath, Matt Turner, Sean Johnson.
Defenders: Joe Scally, Sergino Dest, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman, Shaq Moore, DeAndre Yedlin, Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson.
Midfielders: Cristian Roldan, Kellyn Acosta, Luca de la Torre, Yunus Musah, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson.
Forwards: Jordan Morris, Jesus Ferreira, Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, Giovanni Reyna, Timothy Weah, Haji Wright.
Gregg Berhalter has chosen the youngest squad on average out of any for the World Cup
There is no surprise over which player the Three Lions should be most aware of when the two nations play on November 25.
Christian Pulisic continues to struggle to nail down a regular starting place at Chelsea but is vitally important for Gregg Berhalter’s side.
He was the country’s top scorer during the qualifying process for Qatar with five goals and his creative presence will be needed if the US are to have any chance of progressing past the group stage.
Pulisic is not the only Premier League player who could cause England a problem, with the USA national team boosted by the regular game-time that Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson are receiving at Leeds.
USA will need Christian Pulisic on form if they are to progress past the group stage
There are plenty of other players who are playing on European soil and hold Champions League experience including the likes of Sergino Dest, Timothy Weah and Weston McKennie.
McKennie is a game-breaker for the US who will look to disrupt England’s midfield while Weah, son of former Ballon d’Or winner George, shows speed on the flanks – though he has struggled for form since returning from a foot injury.
The US also have the capability of causing some danger from their full-back positions through Dest and Fulham’s Antonee Robinson.
Back in the United States, some regard this team to be their ‘golden generation’ and part of that is down to the youngsters in the squad.
Former England Under-18’s captain Yunus Musah could be a breakout star at the tournament.
The 19-year-old, who plays for Valencia, has quickly developed into one of the most important players for the US squad since switching allegiances.
He is a central midfielder who is very adept at dribbling the ball out of pressure and will be tasked with dropping into a deeper role to help build attacks.
Though a regular in LaLiga, he is not as widely known outside the US compared to the likes of McKennie or Adams – though that could change in Qatar.
Valencia’s Yunus Mensah switched allegiances from England to USA and could be a break-out star in Qatar
Another one to watch out for is prolific FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira.
The 21-year-old has scored seven goals in 15 appearances for the national side and it will be hoped he can quickly get rid of any rust as he will not have played for a month by the time USA face Wales on Monday.
Aaronson, 22, has impressed since joining Leeds United in the summer and will provide bundles of energy while Borussia Dortmund’s 20-year-old star Giovanni Reyna is fit and available after missing the majority of last season through injury.
On average, the US have the youngest squad in the tournament at 24.
Jesus Ferreira has scored seven goals in 15 appearances for the US Men’s National Team
The US weren’t the most convincing team at times during World Cup qualifying, particularly on the road.
Although they were able to grab the final automatic qualifying position in CONCACAF behind Canada and Mexico, Berhalter’s men only punched their ticket to Qatar during their penultimate game against Panama.
Their form throughout 2022 has been very inconsistent failing to win seven of their 12 games this year.
They had a solid run over the summer with heavy victories over Morocco and Grenada as well as holding a strong Uruguay side to a goalless draw.
One concern for the USA is their recent form, failing to win in their last three games
But since then they needed a stoppage time equaliser to salvage a draw against El Salvador in the CONCACAF Nations League, lost 2-0 to Japan and again failed to put a goal past Saudi Arabia in a 0-0 draw.
One stat that might concern Three Lions fans is that England have failed to beat the US in the two games they have played in World Cup history.
They beat England 1-0 back in 1950 and held them to a 1-1 draw in 2010 – a game which Rob Green would like to forget after his costly mistake.
United States’ results in 2022
USA 1-0 El Salvador (Jan 28)
Canada 2-0 USA (Jan 30)
USA 3-0 Honduras (Feb 3)
Mexico 0-0 USA (Mar 25)
USA 5-1 Panama (Mar 28)
Costa Rica 2-0 USA (Mar 31)
USA 3-0 Morocco (June 2)
USA 0-0 Uruguay (Jun 5)
USA 5-0 Grenada (Jun 11)
El Salvador 1-1 USA (Jun 15)
Japan 2-0 USA (Sep 23)
Saudi Arabia 0-0 USA (Sep 27)
The US have not been at a World Cup since 2010 in South Africa, where they drew 1-1 with England.
Their best finish remains a third-place finish at Uruguay 1930 – it’s been a while!
Berhalter was part of the 2002 team who made the quarter-finals – their best finish since – but a repeat is going to require a monumental display in the group to down England and Wales.
Rob Green made a mistake when England drew 1-1 with USA back at the 2010 World Cup
How they play
The US play a high tempo game that emphasises on their strengths in midfield, as well as their dynamic, energetic players out wide.
With the likes of Pulisic, Reyna, Weah, Aaronsen, Musah and McKennie, they are very effective at pressing opponents and starting counter attacks.
They often play with a 4-3-3 formation and have followed the path of many teams by having two full-backs who can attack as well as they can defend in Robinson and Dest.
They are heavily reliant on the midfield three of McKennie, Adams and Musah, and the absence of any of those three has proven costly to the US in certain matches.
Musah is in charge of progression while McKennie has a more box-to-box role.
They also can ill afford the absence of striker Ferreira due to the lack of options behind him.
Haji Wright only has three appearances with the USA, which is the same amount of goals that Josh Sargent has in 19 appearances.
Ferreira scored an impressive four goals in the 5-0 win over Granada and can form an exciting front three alongside the likes of Pulisic, Reyna, Aaronsen and Weah during the tournament.
USA are heavily reliant on midfielders Weston McKennie (pictured), Tyler Adams and Yunus Mensah
The squad they picked
Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey, Danny Ward, Adam Davies.
Defenders: Ben Davies, Ben Cabango, Tom Lockyer, Joe Rodon, Chris Mepham, Ethan Ampadu, Chris Gunter, Neco Williams, Connor Roberts.
Midfielders: Sorba Thomas, Joe Allen, Matthew Smith, Dylan Levitt, Harry Wilson, Joe Morrell, Jonny Williams, Aaron Ramsey, Rubin Colwill.
Forwards: Gareth Bale, Kieffer Moore, Mark Harris, Brennan Johnson, Dan James.
Rob Page will look to get Wales into the Round of 16 in their first World Cup since 1958
There is one obvious dangerman in the Wales side: former Real Madrid and Tottenham star Gareth Bale.
Bale was crucial in Wales reaching their first World Cup since 1958, by scoring twice in the play-off semi final with Austria and then the decisive goal against Ukraine to reach Qatar.
While the Welshman’s star has faded in recent years after the troublesome end to his time at Real Madrid, he can still turn it on and will offer Southgate’s side a real threat.
The Los Angeles FC winger scored the last time Wales played England at a major competition at Euro 2016, in a tournament he helped them upset all odds by reaching the semi-finals.
In the qualifiers it was the older generation of Bale and Ramsey who were the most prolific with the winger netting five goals and the former Arsenal man getting three.
Dan James is another potential danger man with the speed that he possesses. Kieffer Moore offers a different threat with his hold-up play to add to his goals while Harry Wilson is a set-piece specialist.
Gareth Bale scored important goals for Wales in the qualifiers and can punish England
While maybe not perceived to be wonderkids, Wales have a few exciting talents in their 2022 squad.
Neco Williams has already made 23 caps for his country at the age of 21 and offers a threat with his crossing ability from the right-back position.
He has become a regular at Nottingham Forest, after playing second fiddle to Trent Alexander-Arnold at Liverpool.
Williams’ Forest team-mate Brennan Johnson is an exciting creative player who always shows a willingness to have a pop at goal, while Ethan Ampadu plays a big part in snuffing out danger defensively for Rob Page’s side.
Then there’s 20-year-old Ruben Colwill who is a promising player for the future but might find his minutes limited in Qatar.
Brennan Johnson and Neco Williams are two of Wales’ most highly-talented youngsters
Wales snuck into the World Cup at the last moment and were the final European team to qualify thanks to a 1-0 play-off win over Ukraine.
The Dragons lost only once during qualifying period, a heavy 3-1 defeat to Belgium and as such had to settle for the play-off route.
Their form since beating Ukraine has been far from impressive, failing to win their last five matches, albeit it some difficult clashes.
They are on a three-game loss streak at the moment after defeats to the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland.
The last time England suffered a defeat against Wales was in 1984, when they suffered a shock 1-0 defeat.
Wales’ results in 2022
Wales 2-1 Austria (Mar 24)
Wales 1-1 Czech Republic (Mar 29)
Poland 2-1 Wales (June 1)
Wales 1-0 Ukraine 0 (June 5)
Wales 1-2 Netherlands (Jun 8)
Wales 1-1 Belgium (Jun 11)
Netherlands 3-2 (Jun 14)
Belgium 2-1 Wales (Sep 22)
Wales 0-1 Poland (Sep 25)
Wales haven’t got a rich history at the most prominent tournament on earth like their British neighbors. This will be just their second World Cup appearance.
During their debut, Wales made the quarter-finals of Sweden 1958. Anything close to that and the nation will erupt.
How they play
Though a lot of the talk about Wales is normally about Bale or Ramsey, the key to Wales’ success during qualification was their solid defence.
Similar to England, Page will likely deploy a three-at-the-back formation and look to remain solid in central areas to prevent turnovers.
The likes of Joe Rodon, Ben Davies, Ampadu and Chris Mepham will be tasked with snuffing out any danger.
Joe Allen, along with Ramsey remain key man in the centre of Wales’ midfield. The Swansea star though has not played since September with a hamstring injury.
Bale has also had struggled with fitness, even when helping Los Angeles FC win the MLS Cup earlier this month.
Ben Davies and Joe Rodon helped Wales gain a rigid, difficult reputation during the qualifiers
The squad they picked
Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand, Amir Abedzadeh, Seyed Hossein Hosseini, Payam Niazmand.
Defenders: Ramin Rezaiyan, Sadegh Moharami, Hossein Kanaanizadegan, Morteza Pouraliganji, Shoja Khalilzadeh, Abolfazl Jalali, Milad Mohammadi, Rozbe Cheshmi, Seyed Majid Hosseini.
Midfielders: Saeid Ezatolahi, Ahmad Nourollahi, Ali Karimi, Saman Ghoddos, Vahid Amiri, Ali Gholizadeh, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Ehsan Hajsafi.
Forwards: Karim Ansarifard, Sardar Azmoun, Mehdi Taremi, Mehdi Torabi.
*Only 25 players named
Carlos Queiroz has done a fine job at Iran who are difficult to beat under the former Manchester United assistant
Iran are the weakest side in the group but they do have a number of players who could punish England.
Striker Sardar Azmoun has 41 goals for his country and was prolific at Bayer Leverkusen where he netted 62 times in 104 games, before his move to Zenit St Petersburg – which to date, has not yet worked out.
Porto’s Mehdi Tarema is another player who can bang in the goals with 28 for his country and 62 for his club in 114 appearances.
Former Brighton winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh, now at Feyenoord, has good technical ability while defenders Ehsan Hajsafi and Omid Noorafkan will be tasked with helping to steady their side against stronger opposition.
Iran’s game focuses around their dangerous front three and their solid defence
In short, no-one! That’s not said with disrespect for Iran but more for the fact that the out of the team they chose for Qatar, the youngest player in the squad is 24-year-old Abolfazl Jalali.
In fact they have one of the oldest squads in the tournament on average at 28.9, which compares to the USA with 24.5 and both England and Wales on 26.
Abolfazi Jalali is Iran’s youngest player at the age of 24 in one of the oldest World Cup squads
Iran topped Group A, ahead of South Korea, to claim one of four automatic qualifying spots available to Asian nations. Iran qualified for Qatar after eight wins, one draw and a loss from 10 games.
Despite opposition including Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, Iran had impressive spells – conceding just four goals while scoring 14.
What could worry teams in their group though was their impressive performances in recent friendlies against two strong teams in Uruguay and Senegal.
Taremi scored a 79th minute winner against Uruguay in a 1-0 victory before Sardar Azmoun netted an equaliser in a 1-1 draw with African Cup of Nations champions Senegal.
Iran were no pushover at the last World Cup too as they managed to beat Morocco, hold Portugal to a 1-1 draw, and suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat against Spain.
Iran held Senegal to a 1-1 draw and also beat Uruguay 1-0 in two friendlies in September
Iran’s results in 2022
Iran 1-0 Iraq
Iran 1-0 UAE
South Korea 2-0 Iran
Iran 2-0 Lebanon
Iran 1-2 Algeria
Iran 1-0 Uruguay
Senegal 1-1 Iran
Iran 1-0 Nicaragua
Iran have found themselves at the World Cup more often than you may think.
The nation has made five appearances prior to Qatar, making it three appearances in 12 years.
Despite a willing showing in Russia particularly, Iran have never made it past the group stage of the tournament.
How they play
Manager Carlos Queiroz has done a good job with the Iranian national team and his style mainly focuses around their three-point attack of Azmoun, Taremi and Jahanbakhsh.
Their recent games where they were able to avoid defeat against Uruguay and Senegal are probably a good indicator of what might be seen at the World Cup.
In both games, they recorded fewer shots, had less possession and spent long periods on the back foot but their defensive resolute was notable – as it was in the 2018 World Cup.
Iran have two prolific forwards in the form of Azmoun (pictured) and Porto stat Taremi
Therefore, they could be able to frustrate their opponents in Qatar for long periods of games.
If they can stay in the match and provide Azmoun or Taremi chances at the other end, then they could punish their opposition.
They are ranked in the top 20 in the world, so it would be wise for England, USA and Wales not to take Iran too lightly.