World Cup opener against Iran is the perfect chance for England to get back to winning ways

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The World Cup in Qatar is on the horizon, but England are not going to the Middle East with the kind of prep they perhaps would have hoped for after reaching the semi-finals of the Russia-based tournament four years ago and the final of Euro 2020 at Wembley last summer — which they ultimately lost on penalties to Italy.

In fact, The Three Lions are heading into the tournament on the back of their worst run of form since 1992 after failing to win any of their six Nations League encounters against Italy, Germany and Hungary. As a result, Gareth Southgate’s men have been relegated from the top tier of the competition to League B.

That will be the least of the manager’s worries at the minute, however. Southgate needs to ensure that his players can put those results behind them now and rediscover the kind of form that has made them a force to be reckoned with at the last couple of major tournaments — and they have the perfect chance to do that in their opening game of the tournament.

England begin Group B with a clash against Iran at the 45,416-seater Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on November 21, and the England v Iran betting indicates that it should be a pretty straight forward afternoon for The Three Lions — who are as short as 2/7 to beat the Western Asia nation and get off to the perfect start.

A win is exactly what England need to regain some confidence before the arguably harder ties later in the group against rivals Wales and the USA, and — with all due respect to the side — even in their current form Southgate’s men shouldn’t have too much of an issue forcing the three points in this game.

Is it harsh to write Iran off that easily though? After all, they are just one place behind Wales in the FIFA World Rankings (20th) and four behind the United States, yet everyone seems to think they will be walk overs for the others in Group B. Carlos Queiroz’s men also beat South Americans Uruguay and drew 1-1 with African champions Senegal in their final warm-up matches.

But they were nothing more than friendlies and things should be different when up against one of the best nations in the world at football’s greatest tournament. It’s worth noting that Iran have won just two of their 15 World Cup finals encounters, the second of which came against Morocco in 2018, but they did prove hard to beat four years ago — losing just 1-0 to Spain and drawing 1-1 with Portugal. That’s proof that England can’t just show up at the Khalifa International Stadium and expect to stroll their way to victory. Southgate’s side will need to work for the result, but maybe not as much as they will against Wales or the US. They should have way too much quality in the likes of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Declan Rice and so on to be stunned, and the victory could go a long way.