The latest attempt by England to win a major tournament gets underway on Monday when they play Iran in Group B action at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Gareth Southgate’s young and exuberant crop will make another attempt to emulate the heroes of 1966, and should the Three Lions continue the trend of outperforming expectations at major competitions under the 52-year-old, the empty suitcase that Declan Rice brought with him to bring home the 2022 World Cup trophy will become helpful.
The 1966 World Cup champions entered the tournament after a fruitless Nations League season that saw them drop to League B. They had also gone the entire tournament without scoring from open play until their 3-3 tie with Germany on the last matchday.
The Three Lions might fail to win seven straight games for the first time since they set the record in 1958, which would be a big blemish on Southgate’s record as talk over his post-World Cup future heats up. A piece of unwanted history is also on the line for England.
Additionally, since 1998 England has a pattern of winning its first World Cup game before losing the opening game at the next tournament.
The 20th-ranked country in the world anticipates competing with Wales and the USA for second place in Group B, should England depart as predicted.
Iran has never advanced past the group stage of the World Cup in its current format and has only ever won two games in the competition—one of which came against Morocco on the first matchday of Russia 2018.
Before losing to Tunisia 2-0 on Wednesday, Team Melli warmed up for the 2022 World Cup with a 1-0 friendly victory over Nicaragua the previous week. This was just their third loss in their previous 22 games.
On Monday, England and Iran will square off against each other for the first time. Team Melli is looking to win their first match against European opponents at the ninth attempt, which would undoubtedly cause an early shock in Qatar.