Success at the World Cup is a must for every national team. Not reaching expectations can set off a four-year cycle of cruelty and disappointment. For the United States men’s soccer team, the Americans have been stuck in an eight-year cycle of reflection.
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Since losing in the Round of 16 to Belgium in the 2014 World Cup, the Americans failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and are on their third different manager since firing Jurgen Klinsmann. While the USMNT, as its affectionally referred to in shorthand by supporters, was able to qualify for this year’s event in Qatar. The plus side is the United States’ group isn’t as difficult as it was in 2014, however, qualifying for knockout stage won’t be easy.
Here’s a look at the odds for reach team to win Group B.
England faces heavy pressure
The English team has been on a strong run over the past few years. During the 2020 Euros, The Three Lions came up short in the finals against Italy, but showed they have the talent to punch with the best teams in the world. England is a commanding -335 to win the group and +850, which are the fourth-highest odds, to win the entire tournament.
England, which placed fourth in the 2018 World Cup, has plenty of goal scoring available. Harry Kane has pocketed 51 goals in 75 appearances, while Raheem Sterling has score 19 times in 79 caps. The Three Lions biggest enemy may be the weight of their expectations.
England hasn’t won the World Cup since 1966 and is known for disappointing exits from the knockout rounds. The Three Lions will likely win this group without much of a battle.
Welcome back, Wales
Wales doesn’t have much of a World Cup history. The Dragons made their only other appearance on the world’s stage in 1958. Wales is led by Gareth Bale, who plays with LAFC in MLS. Wales also has veteran players Wayne Hennessey and Chris Gunter available, with fellow veterans Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies and Joe Allen helping on the attack.
This is a group many have considered a “Golden generation” for Wales, which announced themselves to the world by placing third at the 2016 Euros. Wales has the second best odds to win the group at +530.
Americans roll out the kids
Despite having a wave of players playing in European leagues, people aren’t sold on the USMNT’s arrival on the big stage. The Americans are -125 to be eliminated in the group stage and +225 to reach the knockout rounds. To win the group, people have the Stars and Stripes as +770.
The U.S. does have a fun World Cup history against Group B favorite England. The Americans upset win over The Three Lions in 1950 shocked the world. During the pair’s most recent meeting, the U.S. and England drew in a World Cup opener in 2010 when the Americans went on to win the group.
Part of the part of the muted optimism surrounding this year’s U.S. team has been due to its top players performance in Europe. American striker Christian Pulisic hasn’t seen much time for Chelsea in the English Premiere League.
World Cup qualifying for the USMNT was also much more difficult than people would have like. If the Americans’ young players can handle the pressure, they are a feisty underdog to reach the knockout stages for the third straight time. The U.S. also reached the Round of 16 in 2010 and 2014.
Iran doesn’t have high expectations
Team Melli gave Spain and Portugal a strong battle during the Group stage in 2018. However, many people don’t expect Iran to seriously challenge to move on. Iran is -715 to be eliminated in the Group stage.
What gives the Iranians hope is that the attack will be good enough to make the other teams sweat. Mehdi Taremi (Porto), Sardar Azmoun (Bayer Leverkusen) and Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Feynoord) all play in European competition and can score goals. All teams will have to be on alert when playing Iran.