England are the favorites to win World Cup Group B but they could be overvalued.
Who do Bettors Favor?
Checking out the best-rated online sportsbooks it’s clear that the bookmakers have settled on England as the favorites to win Group B. Gareth Southgate’s team are the -300 favorites to win the section. Behind them, Wales and the USA are considered closely matched, while Iran are the Group B underdogs.
|Group B Winner|
World Cup 2022 Qualification
All four teams reached the World Cup via very different routes, with England enjoying the smoothest passage to Qatar. They had a simple Group to negotiate, and victories in their first five games gave them a big advantage. They were held to draws by Poland and Hungary, but eventually won the Group by six points, scoring 39 goals, although games against Andorra and San Marino boosted their tally.
By contrast, Wales had to do it the hard way. They didn’t look convincing throughout their Group campaign, dropping points against Estonia and the Czech Republic but they ultimately came through the play-offs, with narrow home victories against Austria and Ukraine, with Gareth Bale scoring all their goals.
The USA’s qualification route was even tougher, though it hadn’t seemed that way on paper. Defeats to Costa Rica, Panama and Canada, along with disappointing draws against El Salvador and Jamaica meant they had to fight to the penultimate week of qualifying, eventually finishing third in the CONCACAF Qualifying Group, taking the last automatic qualifying spot on goal difference.
Group underdogs Iran had a difficult initial task, coming through a tough AFC Second Round Qualifying section, but in the Third Round, they were consistently strong, losing only once, to South Korea and topping the Group, to claim the first automatic qualification place.
England a Risky Group B Wager
Under Gareth Southgate, England have appeared to be transformed from the team that continually disappointed their supporters. While Southgate deserves a lot of credit, it’s mainly for the work he did behind the scenes in the years after 2010 when English football finally realised the importance of coaching and invested significant money into bringing on the next generation. The abundance of young talent in the England squad is the result of that effort.
Yet some worrying results, including a pair of Nations League defeats to Hungary, have raised questions about Southgate’s ability to deliver a major trophy. Given those doubts and the relative youth of the squad, they look like a risky wager to win Group B.
Wales Look Undervalued in Group B
For the first time since 1958, Wales will be part of the World Cup, although their game plan hasn’t changed that much since their famous Euro 2016 appearance. Tight defense and a reliance on their one undisputed superstar in Gareth Bale, was enough to get them through qualification. Compared to England, this is an ageing squad, and possibly the last chance at international glory for some of them.
But that experience could be vital under the intense pressure of a World Cup campaign. They will relish rather than fear the chance to matchup with England, and they will be confident of beating Iran and at least getting a point against the USA. At their current odds, they look undervalued in the Group B winners’ market and they are a clear pick.
Can the USA Qualify From Group B?
After the shock of failing to qualify for 2018, the USA have at least made the finals, but they did it the hard way and were the clear third-best in the CONCACAF Qualifying tournament.
Their struggles were a surprise, given that they won the Nations League in 2020 and the Gold Cup in 2021, but it served as a reminder that there is no room for complacency in modern international football, which could ultimately help Gregg Berhalter in this World Cup. Much will depend on Christian Pulisic, but like England, the USA have a young squad and predicting how they will cope with the World Cup pressure is tricky. Can they qualify? Yes, but it won’t be easy.
Bookmakers rate the USA higher than Wales in the Group winners market, which I think undervalues Wales, but the bigger issue in this Group is that England look to be overvalued, which means it is worth wagering on both Wales and the USA to win.
Iran Face a Tough World Cup Challenge
As with England and the USA, Iran are likely to bring a young squad to the tournament, and that makes them relatively unpredictable. There is no question that on talent, they are the underdogs of the tournament and face a tough challenge, but USA fans will remember the famous game at the 1998 World Cup where Iran prevailed 2-1 and that clash is sure to be a fiery one again.
They may have their moments in this tournament, but they don’t have the depth of talent to match their three rivals and I can’t see them qualifying from the Group.