PREVIEW: Iran vs. England | 2022 FIFA World Cup - Team News, Opposition Insight, Predictions and More20.11.22
Written by Sahand Salari
Edited by Samson Tamijani
Graphic by Mahdi Javanbakhsh
Monday 21/11/2022: Iran vs England
Location: Doha, Qatar (Khalifa International Stadium)
Tehran - 16:30
London - 13:00
Berlin - 14:00
Los Angeles - 05:00
New York City - 08:00
Sydney - 00:00
Doha - 16:00
Where to Watch:
USA - Fox Sports 1
UK - BBC One
Germany - ZDF
Sweden - SVT
Australia - SBS
France - beIN Sports
Canada - TSN
Iran will take the pitch against England Monday as clear underdogs. However, this is hardly an unfamiliar position for Queiroz’s men, most of whom faced similarly fearsome adversaries in 2018 and managed respectable performances.
The experienced Portuguese manager, who has in many respects been a footballing father to this generation of Iranian footballers, will once again rely on a highly organized defensive approach to make life difficult for the English.
Gareth Southgate meanwhile boasts a team loaded with young talent - particularly in wide areas - who will be tasked with breaking down Iran’s low block.
Following Queiroz’s return in September, Iran managed a couple of impressive results in Austria against full strength Uruguay and Senegal sides. The 1 - 0 win against La Celeste in particular highlighted just how quickly Queiroz was able to refamiliarize his troops with old habits, limiting openings for the likes of Darwin Núñez and Luis Suarez, while gradually imposing themselves on the offensive end as well. In the end, a brilliant finish by Mehdi Taremi following a well-executed team move proved to be the difference.
Team Melli afforded many more openings to a Senegal team many have dubbed as dark horses in Qatar, but showed impressive resilience to come back from a goal down, with Sardar Azmoun’s timely header providing the equalizer for a 1 - 1 draw. A camp for domestic players during October culminated in a lukewarm 1 - 0 friendly win vs Nicaragua, which provided Queiroz with the last-minute information needed to finalize which Persian Gulf Pro League players would make the final roster.
Predicting Queiroz’s hand for the opening match is not so straightforward however, as the final friendly vs. Tunisia took place behind closed doors with each outfield player featuring for just 45 minutes.
Sardar Azmoun was the notable absentee, who was only fully integrated into the team training in the days following the match. Given that he has only just returned from a calf tear, it is unlikely he will play a significant role on Monday.
In terms of formation, Queiroz’s standard 4-1-4-1 approach is a credible option, while deploying a 5 man backline should not be discounted either. In the absence of Azmoun, Queiroz may very well choose to replace him with an additional defensive body rather than an inferior forward option.
While the likes of Mehdi Taremi, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, and Sadegh Moharrami are certain to start, other positions remain up for grabs. Among these are left-back, where Ehsan Hajsafi and Milad Mohammadi will compete, as they have done well at club level for AEK Athens for a starting rotation. Mohammadi’s speed and recent uptick in form might give him the edge for dealing with England’s aforementioned wide players.
This however may not end Hajsafi’s bid for a starting spot, with Queiroz regularly willing to use him in central midfield next to Ezatolahi. Other options in this role include the likes of Ahmad Nourollahi, Vahid Amiri, and Ali Karimi.
The Opponent - England:
Undoubtedly the favorites to top Group B, The Three Lions boast some of the finest young players in football. The likes of Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice will provide a high-energy midfield base while further forward Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, and Mason Mount have the quality to break down even the deepest of defensive setups. Of course, ever-present players like Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, who have delivered for England in past tournaments will once again be central to their plans. Recent injuries to full backs Reece James, Kyle Walker, and Ben Chillwell have given Southgate some defensive concerns. In the heart of the backline, doubts about Harry Maguire persist, given a complete lack of form and playing time at club level this season. For all their talent, England’s recent results have been far from impressive. In fact, they are winless in their last six matches including a pair of comprehensive defeats to Hungary in the UEFA Nations League. Queiroz may well use those matches as a blueprint, with the Hungarian’s 5-man back line and physical, counter-attacking approach causing Southgate’s men repeated problems. Despite these results, expectations remain sky-high for this England group following their recent tournament successes.
Having managed a semifinal appearance in Russia before losing the 2020 European Championship final to Italy on penalties, they will aim to go one step further in Qatar.
0 - 0
Iran has a track record of making life difficult for the world’s best under Queiroz. Argentina in 2014, as well as Spain and Portugal in 2018 can attest to that fact. While on paper England boast the much stronger squad, the fact they have only managed a handful of sessions together since the end of domestic action last weekend means they might not be fully in sync from the first whistle. Their struggles against highly regimented defensive schemes like that executed by Hungary have been well documented, and if Team Melli can avoid conceding an early goal a similar scenario is possible. By clogging the half spaces and preventing England’s wide players from having space in behind to penetrate, Iran will seek to frustrate their opponents and force long periods of slower possession with limited end product. On the other end, the presence of Taremi - if provided decent service - will be a real threat throughout the match and likely prevent the English from completely throwing caution to the wind. A lot will depend on Queiroz getting the balance of Iran’s midfield right because it is undoubtedly Team Melli’s weakest spot on the pitch.
Finding a group of players that provides defensive work rate, mobility, and technical competency will be of the utmost importance.
To listen to our podcast previewing the Iran vs. England match, visit: golbezanpodcast.com/golbezan/preview-iran-vs-england-2022-fifa-world-cup
Khalifa International Stadium, Doha