England have the capabilities to challenge for the title at the World Cup but their recent form does not inspire any confidence. Leading into Qatar 2022, the Three Lions have had underwhelming results, failing to win their last six games.
Despite their rich attacking resources, they have struggled in front of the goal, lacking creativity and have occasionally looked chaotic in defence too as they did in the 4-0 home loss to Hungary in the Nations League.
A thrilling 3-3 draw with Germany in their final game before the World Cup has renewed some energy.
Under manager Gareth Southgate, they reached the semi-finals at the last World Cup and final at the European Championship in 2021, but have come into Qatar not as title contenders. But a last-16 berth should be easy since they face Iran, USA and Wales in Group B.
First up for England is Iran today at the Khalifa International Stadium and Southgate will be hoping they can shed their winless run and build some momentum.
Iran, who are coached by experienced Portuguese Carlos Queiroz and are 20th in FIFA’s rankings, will certainly be no walkovers. And Southgate is well aware of it.
“Iran under Carlos is a very well organised side. We are ready for the game, ready for a strong challenge and we have to be the best version of ourselves,” Southgate said yesterday.
Southgate confirmed England would be without James Maddison and Kyle Walker. “In terms of player availability, everybody’s available bar James Maddison for tomorrow. It’s a little bit early for Kyle Walker but he is training with the team, so that’s ahead of where we thought he might be at this stage. Very positive. “We’re looking forward to this challenge and I’ve really liked the way the players have approached training this week,” the England manager said.
On the other hand Queiroz’s Iran side, who made light work of qualifying for Qatar, winning eight of the10 games in the third round of Asian qualifying and conceding just four goals.
They are one of the most defensive units at this World Cup and are difficult to break down.
Queiroz, however, has talked up England’s chances of enjoying a successful run in Qatar before the two sides meet today, which he describes as a “dream” fixture.
“It is the most important game of our lives, first of all because it is the next one, and the next game is always most important for the life of coaches and players,” Queiroz said yesterday.
“But also it is a unique opportunity, even for me, and I have 200-and-something international games. But it is the first time I have the opportunity to play against the England national team.
“And for the majority of our players, to play against England is like magic, a unique opportunity, a gift, because in terms of the international calendar, to play England or Germany is almost impossible. For them, for me, it is a life dream,” the Portuguese admitted.
Queiroz termed the new generation English side ‘very dangerous’.
“This new generation that Gareth Southgate is bringing for the national team in my opinion is probably the most talented, the most competitive English national team since 1966.
“This team is very very functional, very practical, very realistic. I work with the generation of Rio (Ferdinand), (Paul) Scholes, (David) Beckham, all those guys. But this national team is really, really different because they have a realistic approach to any single game which makes them very, very dangerous.”
Queiroz said England will be difficult to break down.
“They have fantastic talent, guided by (Harry) Kane, and a coach that knows the team and the players for a couple of years. They reached wonderful positions in the last World Cup and the Euros, by not conceding goals. What else can I say? We can only be at the level of England to produce a great game, if we know what we need to do in the game,” he said.

Kane EAGER to surpass WAYNE Rooney’s record

Meanwhile Kane yesterday said he is eager to break the goal record for England held by retired Wayne Rooney.
“Hopefully (I’ll break it) as soon as possible,” Kane, who has scored 51 goals in 75 appearances, told reporters yesterday. “I know it’s there and I know people will talk about it but I like to just focus on my game. I know with the team we have we will create chances and I just need to be ready for the ones that come my way. I was lucky enough to play with Wayne and he was a huge player who I looked up to. I watched him play in the major tournaments and it’s a huge honour to be close to him.”
The England captain scored six goals in the 2018 FIFA World Cup held in Russia when his team was beaten by Croatia in the semi-finals.

FACTBOX - England v Iran

When: Monday, Nov. 21, 4pm local (1300 GMT/0800 ET)
Where: Khalifa International Stadium, Doha
Capacity: 40,000

Key stats:
  • England have not won in their past six competitive matches going into the game against Iran
  • Iran are playing in their third successive World Cup and have qualified five times overall, but have never progressed from the group stage
  • England have contested 16 World Cups but have won the tournament just once, in 1966
  • Iran scored 49 goals and conceded eight in Asian qualifying, winning 14 of their 18 matches to reach Qatar
  • Iran won the Asian Cup three times in a row, from 1968-1976
  • England won eight of their 10 qualifying matches, scoring
  • 39 times and conceding only three goals
Previous meetings:
England and Iran have never played each other in a competitive match
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