Group B at the Qatar 2022 World Cup does not lack talking points, with England, Wales, the United States and Iran playing each other.
Favourites England breezed through qualifying undefeated but have faltered in recent games as they were relegated from their Nations League group without scoring a goal from open play.
Wales come in as second favourites, but with their old enemy struggling of late, in the low valleys, hopes will be high, and Rob Pages’ men will think they are in with a chance of taking top spot.
The USA will make their 10th appearance at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Though they were underwhelming in qualifying, relying mainly on home form and were roundly beaten by Group toppers Canada away from home.
Iran come into their 6th FIFA World Cup amid chaos and controversy, having sacked Dragan Skočić, who led them to 1st place in qualifying. They replaced him with former manager Carlos Quieroz who managed the team to their best performance at a World Cup in 2018, getting 4 points.
Group B Teams
Must-have Qatar World Cup fantasy player from group B
Harry Kane, FWD ($11m)
The Spurs striker won the golden boot at the 2018 World Cup and followed that up with 4 in Euro 2020 as England almost went all the way. With 12 in qualifying as Kane chases Rooney’s record, he’s our must-have pick.
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Having won the competition once back in 1966 (though they don’t like to talk about it), England have come tantalisingly close to adding another trophy in recent years.
Though Gareth Southgate’s style of play has been heavily criticised of late for being overly defensive, it seems to work at tournaments were grinding out results is all that matters.
Southgate deploys a five at the back with two holding midfielders in a “safety first” approach. The system relies on moments of magic from the likes of Kane and Sterling to score goals.
One thing is sure, goals will be at a premium in these games, especially as we expect the game against Wales to be a very tense affair.
With the announcement that Reece James has to withdraw from the squad, Kieran Trippier is the right wingback of choice for England. He’s a great addition to Harry Kane.
Best fantasy players from England
Harry Kane, FWD ($11m) ★★★★★
Hard to say much more about Harry Kane. Just four goals off becoming England’s top goalscorer of all time. Even with England’s issues, Kane remains relentless.
Kieran Trippier, DEF ($5.0m) ★★★★★
Those who play Fantasy Premier League will know just how good an asset Kieran Trippier is. The Newcastle wingback’s instincts for goals and assists, combined with England’s defensive prowess, make him a must-have pick at only $5.0m.
Raheem Sterling, FWD ($8.5m) ★★★★☆
A crucial part of England’s success at Euro 2020, Raheem Sterling managed 3 goals, and 1 assist in 7 matches. The Chelsea forward always performs well for his country and is worth his price.
Jordan Pickford, GK ($5.5m) ★★★★☆
England conceded just 2 goals at Euro 2020, and Jordan Pickford had an excellent tournament from a shot-stopping point of view. His penalty-saving abilities are impressive as well.
Differential/budget player from England
Harry Maguire, DEF ($5.5m)
The Manchester United captain is the 3rd top scorer in this England squad with 7 goals. With the defensive solidity of England and Maguire’s threat from set pieces, he could just prove the doubters wrong.
The Dragons come into this tournament chasing a dream as they make their first appearance at a World Cup since 1958. Having scrapped to second place in their group, dramatic wins over Austria and Ukraine cemented their spot in Qatar.
Rob Pages’ men have a similar set-up to England but on the pitch looks more of a 3-4-3 with Gareth Bale spearheading the attack. Like England, they take a safety-first approach and rely on Bale and Ramsey to make goals out of nothing.
Again wingbacks could prove valuable assets. Burnley’s Conor Roberts and Nottingham Forrest’s Neco William are capable of bombing up and down the wings and getting crosses in. Both are familiar on the scoresheet for club and country.
Best fantasy players from Wales
Gareth Bale, FWD ($8m) ★★★★☆
Quite simply the best player in Wales football history. The talismanic striker scored 6 in qualifying, including all three in the playoffs. Freekicks and penalties are also in his repertoire and only boost his appeal.
Neco Williams, DEF ($4.5m) ★★★☆☆
The Nottingham Forest wingback has impressed many since his move from Liverpool. He plays a similar position for Wales, bombing up and down the wing. He’s worth a punt at his low price.
Aaron Ramsey, MID ($7.5m) ★★★☆☆
Three goals in qualifying make Ramsey an attractive option. Playing more advanced in recent years, his partnership with Bale has been fruitful. If he can manage to stay fit, he could be a good pick.
Differential/budget player from Wales
Conor Roberts, DEF ($4m)
With three goals for the Dragons, the Burnley fullback is no stranger to the scoresheet. Playing at right wingback for the national team Roberts represents good value at his price, as goals will be at a premium in this group.
With a spate of young talent coming through since the USA failed to qualify in 2018, hopes have never been higher that the men’s national team can leave their mark on the World Cup.
However, these hopes may be unfounded, as the USA had an underwhelming qualifying campaign, only securing automatic qualification due to having a better goal difference than Costa Rica.
Relying mainly on home form to see them through, they tended to beat the lower-ranked teams in the group and struggle against the other qualifiers scoring 0 goals away from home against the other three qualifiers. They are leaky in defence, too, conceding 7 goals in 5 away games. Given they won’t have home advantage here, the USA may finish rock bottom of this group.
Best fantasy players from the USA
Christian Pulisic, MID ($7.5m) ★★★☆☆
Jokingly known as the “Lebron James of Soccer”, Pulisic is by far the USA’s most likely route to goal. 5 goals in 10 games in qualifying make him a decent punt.
Weston McKennie, MID ($6.0m) ★☆☆☆☆
The Juventus midfielder is an ever present on the team sheet for the USA and pops up with the odd goal or assist. If you want a reliable choice at low value, he’s a decent pick.
Differential/budget player from the USA
Brenden Aaronson, MID ($6m)
Leeds United’s new “American boy” has gotten off to a great start in his Premier League career 1 goal and 1 assist in 6 games. He provides a differential option to the more popular pick of Christian Pulisic.
Carlos Quieroz returns to manage Iran in Qatar 2022, having guided them to their best-ever performance at a World Cup Finals in 2018, beating Morocco in the opening game before drawing with Portugal to finish with 4 points.
A well-organised outfit under the former Real Madrid manager, Iran will be tough to beat, and we can expect them to be defensively solid. In 2018 they conceded just one goal against both Spain and Portugal. Their main objective will be to sit back at hit teams on the counter, with Sadar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi as their primary offensive outlets.
Their defensive approach, combined with the fact that the climate will suit them, means an upset or two may be on the cards for Quieroz’s men.
Best fantasy players from Iran
Mehdi Taremi, FWD ($7m) ★☆☆☆☆
Scorer of the only goal as Iran beat Uruguay in a friendly in September, Iran’s number 9 is the second top scorer in this current squad with 28 goals in 59 games.
Sadar Azmoun, FWD ($4.5m) ★☆☆☆☆
The current top scorer in the Iranian national team with 40 goals in 64 games, Azmoun is their most likely route to goal. This one falls under the “massive punt” category.
Differential/budget player from Iran
Ehsan Hajsafi, DEF ($3.5m)
Listed as a defender but playing more advanced, Hajsafi captains his country and is an ever-present in the team. With Carlos Quieroz’s organised approach, Hajsafi could be an ultra-differential choice.
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CONTINUE TO GROUP C
Odhrán Brennan is a data journalist for a sports data company, living in Finland. He’s been playing FPL since the 06/07 season and is a long-suffering fan of both Arsenal and the Republic of Ireland national team. You can follow him on Twitter here.