With the hosts Qatar having opened the tournament on Sunday, the following afternoon sees England embark on their 17th World Cup campaign, taking on Iran in Khalifa.
Having reached the last four of the previous two major tournaments, The Three Lions are again fancied to do well and might have been handed far tougher opposition than Carlos Queiroz’s men first up. But is this game such the foregone conclusion?
Here at BestofBets we have already stated our reservations about England with a worrying lack of form despite their most recent tournament showings. If an England win is the only result you can see though, an evens bet for victory with William Hill should be your number one stop at a maximum stake of £10.
Meanwhile, at an identical price with SkyBet, a Harry Kane goal or assist can be backed, but concerns over fatigue and a lack of form might be factors to merit a second thought. Instead, a 3/1 flutter for Phil Foden to find the net with Bet365 is a further option to think on.
Iran will be pushovers, right? Though a team who have only won two World Cup matches in their history, Iran are a vastly improved side from Russia 2018 where they narrowly failed to progress from the Group stages after beating Morocco but losing to Spain by only a single goal and drawing with Portugal.
Part of a stunning upset of the USA at France ’98, this time around Team Melli have the players to cause England worries, though an upset for many would seem quite the stretch. Any form of result is of course against the odds but – as one swaying ingredient – the stifling conditions could favour the rank underdogs and a 15/4 price for a draw with Bet365 could be a good cover measure.
Iran possess two dangerous front men, firstly in the shape of FC Porto hitman Mehdi Taremi. With 28 goals for his country, Taremi may have only netted three times in his nation’s colours, but his height and physicality could cause an oft-shaky England defence problems.
Strike partner Sardar Azmoun, dubbed ‘the Iranian Messi,’ meanwhile, was prolific for Zenit St. Petersburg in previous years and though yet to find his feet in the Bundesliga combines with Taremi to form a potentially potent double. Backing either player to score on Monday fetches good odds, with Bet365 dangling a 15/2 price individually on either man to score. As another alternative, Iran should at the very least threaten the England goal and for both men to have over 2 SOT combined, a 9/1 shot with ‘Hills is an interesting option.
One other name we might be having a flutter on would be Karim Ansarifard. The Omonia forward will be no stranger to certain personnel in the England XI having given his club a surprise Europa League lead over Manchester United earlier this season and the 32-year-old was also the man to score from the spot in the last World Cup over the Portuguese. His appearance may only come from the bench, but an Ansarifard goal carries real weight at 9/1 with Bet365.
Finally, Brazilian referee Raphael Claus has been assigned this game and though his card ratio in Serie A this term has been under 4.6 per game this term, the Sao Paulo native has often been a man to stamp his authority on a game. Iran look set to have men behind the ball here for large periods of the game but with a capability to counter at speed, there could be some late challenges flying – not only from Iran. Is a 9/4 shot with SkyBet for both teams to receive 20+ booking points out of range? It may not be.