The Three Lions will roar again on Monday afternoon when Gareth Southgate’s England side face Iran in a World Cup Group B clash. After the overwhelming success of our Lionesses’ Euros winning campaign the men have a big shadow to follow.
The Qatar job in hand is massive, and the question the country is asking - will the men follow in the footsteps of the Lionesses? Or is this another golden generation of players that fails to deliver on the biggest stage of all?
England begin their World Cup campaign against a side they have never met in their international history, so we have no previous to go off there. What we do know is that preparation for this tournament has been far from ideal with England not having won any of their last six games: their joint worst winless streak in their history. In that period England suffered two humiliating defeats against Hungary (0-1, 4-0) and failed to beat Germany and Italy at home and away, subsequently resulting in an embarrassing Nations League relegation.
A lot of questions have been asked off the back of those performances and there has been a lot of scrutiny surrounding Gareth Southgate - the first time he has really been under the cosh as England manager. The glory days of Gareth’s waistcoat and positive vibes brought us a World Cup semi-final and a Euro’s final, the most successful manager since Sir Alf Ramsey in 1966. This of course earns him brownie points as in tournaments he has delivered to an extent.
The hangover of the Euro’s loss is there for all to see, the team haven’t looked the same since that night. If only I could give the lads a paracetamol and a maccies breakfast and we can be done with this hangover. Gareth did such a good job in creating an enviroment for the players to feel comfortable in, breaking down the clicks that had formed in previous dressing rooms before his tenure.
He also brought some harmony between the players and the press, something we should not take for granted because there was a point where it became a circus with the media. It’s that time where I get my England hat on again, embrace his ways but pray that he does actually let the shackles off this time.
Anything less than a win here is a disaster for England, they need to start this tournament well and get the good vibes going in the camp. I expect that England will line up with Jordan Pickford in goal having yet to put a foot wrong in an England shirt. I imagine we may see the traditional 3-4-3 formation with Trippier and Shaw operating as wing-backs and Maguire, Stones and either Coady/Dier completing the backline (if we are honest it is more like a back five).
It wouldn’t be the way I would like to see us lineup but I think this has been a staple of Southgate’s tournament success and he will stick by his principles. I would much prefer to see us operate with a back four like most Premier League teams are doing now and have a much higher emphasis on attacking play.
In the middle of the park Declan Rice is nailed on as I expect is Jude Bellingham who has featured heavily in England’s recent games. Harry Kane will lead the line and I expect Raheem Sterling and either Bukayo Saka or Phil Foden to make a front three.
Harry Kane has been in fine form domestically with 12 Premier League goals from 15 games. Hopefully he can carry that form into the tournament and I feel there is a great opportunity for him to win the Golden Boot again like he did in 2018. The Tottenham striker is the bookmakers joint favourite to win the Golden Boot alongside Kylian Mbappe priced at 8/1 with William Hill.
I expect that England will have a lot of set pieces and because of that I have a feeling one of our centre-halves could grab a goal here, so I am backing big John Stones to score because I believe we will have a massive aerial advantage. (John Stones 12/1 to score anytime 12/1 William Hill)
England have a perfect opportunity to make a statement, I hope that the players will be in a similar mindset and we can go out there and turnover Iran comfortably. I don’t expect us to concede although you never know. What I want from this game is for England to stamp their authority on the group before potentially trickier ties against USA and Wales.
England to win 3-0 (7/1 with William Hill)
Kyle Walker is still recovering from a groin injury and I expect he won’t be risked until England’s second game at the earliest. James Maddison has a knee injury which has forced him to miss some of England’s sessions in the buildup to this match; after coming off in Leicester’s win against West Ham.
Iran have concerns over the fitness of star striker Sardar Azmoun. The Leverkusen forward tore his hamstring in October.
- All of England’s last five World Cup matches have produced less than three goals.
- Seven of Iran’s last eight World Cup matches have produced less than three goals.
- England have failed to win any of their last six games coming into the tournament.
- Iran beat Uruguay 1-0 in September in a friendly.
- Iran drew with Senegal in September in a friendly.
- Iran have appeared at the World Cup on six occasions and have qualified for all of the last three World Cups.
- Iran have never managed to make it through the group stages.
- Harry Kane won the Golden Boot in 2018 with six goals
- Karim Ansarifard is the only player in Iran’s squad to have scored a goal in a World Cup, after converting a 93rd minute penalty to earn a draw against Portugal in 2018.