The big preview: England vs Iran

The wait is finally over. England kick off their FIFA World Cup campaign on Monday afternoon against Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium.

The overview

This World Cup has something different about it as it is the first Arab country to host the competition and it is being played during the winter due to the high temperatures in Qatar during the summer. England will certainly go into the game as favourites after excelling in their previous two major tournaments but could Iran spring a surprise early on in the tournament?

The opposition

Iran have a squad which includes many experienced players and a lot them were in the squad for the previous World Cup in Russia. They saw a late change of manager as Dragan Skočić was sacked in July and Carlos Queiroz replaced him for his second stint for Team Melli. During qualifying, Iran were impressive as they topped their group to book their place in Qatar. However, the late change in manager could come back to bite them – only time will tell.

Ones to watch

Alireza Jahanbakhsh had a three-year spell at Brighton & Hove Albion and he is currently at Feyenoord. The forward will likely line-up on the right hand side of the attack and he has made 65 appearances for Iran since his debut in 2013. Iran also have two strikers who can find the back of the net in Bayer Leverkusen’s Sardar Azmoun and Porto’s Mehdi Taremi. For their respective clubs this season, Azmoun is yet to score for Leverkusen but Taremi has netted six times and assisted five in 13 Primeira Liga matches.

Team news

Kyle Walker has been struggling with a groin injury at Manchester City but Gareth Southgate decided to call up the versatile defender but he will probably not feature in this game. James Maddison picked up an injury in his last Premier League game for Leicester City and he also is unlikely to play in England’s opening group game.

The stats

This match will be the first official meeting between the two sides. Iran have never progressed past the group stage of the World Cup but they have participated in the last two tournaments. Harry Kane won the golden boot in the 2018 World Cup but no player has ever won the golden boot in two consecutive tournaments.

Predicted line-ups

England (3-4-3): Pickford, Stones, Maguire, Dier, Shaw, Bellingham, Rice, Trippier, Sterling, Kane, Saka

Iran (4-1-4-1): Beiranvand, Moharrami, Kanani, Khalilzadeh, Hajsafi, Ezatolahi, Jahanbakhsh, Nourollahi, Amiri, Taremi, Ansarifard

Match information

Kick off: 13:00 GMT

Stadium: Khalifa International Stadium

How to watch: BBC One (Coverage starting at 12:00 GMT)

Will the Three Lions get off to a winning start in Qatar?

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