World Cup 2022 begins on Sunday with Qatar vs Ecuador, but Monday is the first full day of action. England take on Iran and the USA face Wales in Group B, while the Netherlands will do battle with Senegal in Group A.
Read on for our recommended bets in all three matches, plus key information about each game.
The odds for November 21 have been taken from the Caesars Sportsbook, which offers up to $1250 in free bets to new punters.
England are among the pre-tournament favorites to lift the trophy this winter. They will begin their campaign against the team that the best online sportsbooks perceive to be the weakest in Group B, so anything less than a win would be a major disappointment.
England should indeed pick up all three points at the Khalifa International Stadium. There are question marks over the defense in particular, but Iran’s tendency towards caution means England’s backline is unlikely to be put under too much stress. A clean sheet would certainly help to build up confidence within the camp.
The most important thing on matchday one is getting the result. Iran are dogged and resolute, so England will have to remain patient if they are to break down their opponents’ well-organized rearguard.
This is unlikely to be a dazzling attacking display from Gareth Southgate’s side, and there may well be criticism of the performance back home. But it is worth remembering that eventual champions do not always start the group stage on fire. As long as England win on Monday, it will be a positive outcome. Back Southgate’s men to get the job done.
The Netherlands are not among the outright favorites to win the 21st edition of the World Cup, but they could be strong contenders this winter. They have been drawn into a reasonably kind group and head into the tournament in excellent form, having recently qualified for the Nations League Finals.
Louis van Gaal is back for a third spell in charge of his country, having previously led the Dutch to the semi-finals in 2014. Just as he did in Brazil eight years ago, Van Gaal will use a three-man backline in Qatar, with the mobile Jurrien Timber and the left-footed Nathan Ake either side of Virgil van Dijk.
Injuries to key players could derail the Dutch’s chances, since they cannot match the strength in depth of Brazil, France and others. But we are backing Van Gaal’s team to get off to a winning start against Senegal, who will be without their star man Sadio Mane.
The African champions will still be competitive at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, but the Netherlands will probably prove too strong.
After missing out on World Cup 2018, the USA are chomping at the bit to get going in Qatar. Their opening game against Wales will be crucial. England are expected to top Group B and Iran are the favorites to finish bottom, so the winner of this match will be in pole position to advance to the round of 16 as runners-up.
The best online sportsbooks favor the USA, but we do not see much difference between the two sides - which is why we are backing Wales because of the more attractive odds on offer.
The main question mark facing Gregg Berhalter’s side is whether they can score enough goals. Notably, the USA failed to find the back of the net in trips to Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and El Salvador in qualifying. They sometimes lack a ruthless streak in the final third, exemplified by the absence of a natural goalscorer up front.
Wales may prove to be more decisive. Even at 33, the MLS-based Gareth Bale is the most obvious difference-maker, while the speed of Brennan Johnson and Dan James will cause problems for the Americans’ backline.
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: g[email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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