Kick-off: 1300, 21/11/2022
Stadium: Khalifa International Stadium
England are fancied to put their Nations League problems behind them and begin their World Cup campaign by seeing off Iran.
Wales and USA make up an interesting Group B and a winning start at Khalifa International Stadium could be key to making the knockout stage.
The Three Lions should have enough to edge it and a win with both teams scoring at 16/5 is our first England vs Iran prediction.
England are big favourites for this one – and to top the section – but they simply do not do statement wins when kicking off a competition.
In the 10 major tournaments they have featured in this century, their record in their opening match has room for improvement.
Going back as far as Euro 2000, England fans have watched their side start out by losing to Portugal, France and Italy, as well as drawing with Sweden, USA, France and Russia.
Their only victories came against Croatia, Paraguay (both 1-0) and Tunisia (after an injury-time goal from Harry Kane in Russia four years ago).
As expected, the Three Lions had no real problems in qualifying for Qatar 2022 but have stuttered since.
Their Nations League form was poor – no wins from six matches – and there were even suggestions from some sections of the support for Gareth Southgate to go.
Those calls were rightly ignored, though, and Southgate will be looking to build on a semi-final appearance four years ago, plus the near-miss at Euro 2020.
Captain Harry Kane told the FA website: “I think for most professional players it’s the biggest tournament you can play in. I’ve been lucky enough to do one and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life
“In 2018, it was an incredible experience, one of my favourite times playing football, and hopefully this will be more of the same.
“I know what we’re going into, but every tournament is a different experience, so we just can’t wait to get out there and get ready for Monday.”
There could still be some nerves early on, though, so England vs Iran odds.
Like England, Iran topped their group in qualifying.
They posted 14-0 and 10-0 wins over Cambodia in the second round but had to beat Bahrain and Iraq in two of their final three games to head into round three as group winners.
Team Melli finished first again, winning eight and drawing one of their 10 matches, losing only to South Korea once a place in Qatar was sealed.
Mehdi Taremi and Alireza Jahanbakhsh shared eight of the 15 goals Iran scored in the third qualifying round.
Both men featured at the last World Cup, with Taremi missing a golden chance against Portugal as his side just failed to make the knockout stage for the first time.
Iran beat Morocco and drew with the Portuguese four years ago, while their sole defeat was when Spain’s Diego Costa scored the only goal of the match in Kazan.
So, they can mix it with the big boys and September’s friendlies brought a 1-0 win over Uruguay and a 1-1 draw with Senegal.
Former England defender Paul Parker has warned the Three Lions not to underestimate their early opponents.
“When you look at the group England are in, everyone is going, ‘Well, you should win that’, but it should make it scarier really, because there is loads and loads of pressure on,” he told the PA news agency.
“People are saying, ‘England should be winning every game’, and it is just like when we played Cameroon (in the 1990 quarter-final). It turned out tougher than what it should have been – we just didn’t give them enough respect.
“You can look at it and say that we should beat Iran, but we also know America will be tough, on a couple of occasions they have taken something from us, then Wales is a derby game really where anything can happen.
“There are so many hurdles to get over and when you look, there are a lot of difficulties there, so it will be mind over matter in those games.”
Even so, we still fancy Southgate’s men to shade it and a 2-1 correct score at 17/2 completes our England vs Iran betting tips.
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