FIFA World Cup Group B: Clinical England saunter into the last 16, Wales disappoint

While all four teams had managers who had a history of pragmatic, safety-oriented football, the group offered exciting football and plenty of goals (16). With the exception of Wales, every other team lived up to their previous performance.

England stormed through Iran, which was riddled with a cloud of controversy and uncertainty ahead of the game, to set an early mark. England had five different goalscorers, with teenage midfielder Jude Bellingham showing why there was so much noise around him. The under-fire boss Gareth Southgate once again played the right cards when it came to international tournament management as England sailed through the group stage with a near-perfect record. Crucially, Southgate was able to give key members of the squad playing time ahead of the knockouts. However, the goalless draw with USA exposed England’s weakness and lack of control in midfield as the Atlantic rivals repeatedly rolled over the team.

FOLLOW OUR FIFA World Cup coverage

With the second youngest squad at this World Cup, USA had a lot of diligence and energy in football but lacked the goals. It took a win in the last game against Iran to qualify and Christian Pulisic was once again the man to deliver the moment. While the USMNT struggled to score up front, it made it difficult for opponents to score against them as well.

Iran and its players have been able to deal with the growing tensions at home and take to the field to play football. The thrilling win over Wales will be remembered for a long time, but Team Melli will feel it was a missed opportunity after failing to take a point against USA.

Wales’ 64-year wait for their second World Cup was nothing to remember on the pitch. Senior stars Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have not had much of an impact anymore as they have done so in the past.

Leading from the front: US captain Tyler Adams (right) was instrumental in breaking down opposing attacks. | Credit: REUTERS

Best Goal – Marcus Rashford v Wales

Needing a moment of quality to break the deadlock in the game against Wales, England found Rashford 30 yards from goal from a free-kick. The striker’s conversion rate from free-kicks hasn’t been the best in recent years – his last successful appearance was in the 2019 League Cup for Manchester United against Chelsea.

READ ALSO – Who is Dominik Livakovic, Croatia goalkeeper who featured in the FIFA World Cup?

From the left, Rashford would always prefer to bring a preferred pace and power to the right side of the goal rather than lift it over the wall and bend into the top corner. Welsh goalkeeper Danny Ward would have thought for a tiny millisecond that he had a chance to stop that effort, but the power with which Rashford wrapped that shot was unstoppable for Ward.

Best Player – Tyler Adams

The youngest World Cup captain, Tyler Adams, has guided the young USA both on and off the pitch. Adams set the tone for the States in central midfield with his energetic running and tough tackle. The 23-year-old covered the longest distance for a USMNT player in the three group stage games.

Adams was instrumental in breaking opposing attacks with his interpretation of the game and helping the team progress with his clear in-game distribution. The USA had the best defensive record in the group, conceding just one goal – which came from a penalty in the opening game – and limiting both England and Iran to xG under 0.5.

Off the field, too, Adams has shown incredible maturity in answering difficult questions ahead of the tough clash against Iran.

Best game – Iran 2-0 Wales

After going 6-2 in the opening game, not many expected Iran to hit back in the next game like they did against Wales. Iran, known for their tenacity under coach Carlos Queiroz, opted for a more direct attacking approach, with Sardar Azmoun returning to lead the line.

This game had it all – knocked off the post, missed chances, a red card and two late goals. Wales keeper Wayne Hennessey was sent off after a dangerous tackle outside his box in the 86th minute, allowing Iran to exert pressure in the final minutes. But when it seemed like a missed opportunity, Iran pulled out a late winner thanks to a superbly placed long-range shot from Rouzbeh Cheshmi in the 98th minute – the final minute of added time. Three minutes later, Ramin Razaelan started the celebration with a second counterattack and sealed the win.

position team played won To draw Lost Points GF GA DG
1 England 3 2 1 0 7 9 2 +7
2 United States of America 3 1 2 0 5 2 1 +1
3 Iran 3 1 0 2 3 4 7 -3
4 Wales 3 0 1 2 1 1 6 05

Leave a Comment