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England v Iran preview: Underdogs can make Three Lions work

England begin their World Cup campaign on Monday with what looks set to be a tricky Group B tie against Iran.

After reaching the semi-finals four years ago in Russia and then losing in the final of the Euro 2020, the logical next step for Gareth Southgate's side is to win a tournament but that will be significantly easier said than done.

The first of the real big guns set to take to the field in Qatar, the Three Lions have a chance to lay down a marker but face an underrated Team Melli.

Iran are ranked 20th in the world, 15 places below the 1966 winners, and, despite a chaotic build-up with Carlos Queiroz returning in September in place of Dragan Skocic, are a well-balanced side that will be happy to remain patient and try and take their chances on the break.

They are also confident having dropped just five points during the final phase of qualifying, while England have not won any of their last six games.

What: England v Iran, World Cup
Where: Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
When: 13:00, Monday 21st November
How to watch: BBC One and iPlayer
Odds: England 1/3, Draw 15/4, Iran 10/1

Cagey contest in Al Rayyan

England are the clear 1/3 favourites to win at the Khalifa International Stadium but history shows us that England's opening games at World Cups are rarely open and attacking.

Their cagey 2-1 opening win against Tunisia four years ago marked the first time England had scored more than once in their first game of a World Cup since beating the same opponents 2-0 in their opener at France 98, a match in which Southgate played.

With the Three Lions traditionally struggling to break down a low block, Iran will look to sit deep and use Sardar Azmoun on the break.

Iran have scored in 21 of their last 22 outings and while most of those games have seen them face weaker opposition, their run does include strikes against Senegal, South Korea and Uruguay.

It is also fair to mention the questions the conditions will pose, with it forecast to be in the high 20s when the two sides kick off in Al Rayyan.

Despite the stadium being air-conditioned, the heat means this is unlikely to be an open match and England to win by a single goal against a team who sit only 15 places below them in the world rankings, is 9/4.

Kane could be the key

Therefore, England's greater firepower will be critical to the outcome of the game and Harry Kane looks sure to be at the fore in everything they do right.

The Three Lions captain claimed the Golden Boot in Russia with six goals, two of which came in that opening win over Tunisia, and is 7/1 to become the first player to retain that prize.

The Tottenham man has also scored 14 goals for club and country this season and is 6/5 to score at anytime on Monday.

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Slow starters

As mentioned England have traditionally struggled to fire in their opening games at the World Cup.

While they may have only lost their opener twice since winning the tournament in 1966, the Three Lions have struggled in front of goal.

They have scored more than twice on just one occasion during that run since 1966, beating eventual semi-finalists France 3-1 in 1982 when inspired by Bryan Robson's opener after 27 seconds.

Iran have attacking talent in Bayer Leverkusen's Azmoun and Porto's Mehdi Taremi, while they also boast midfield flair in former Brighton man Alireza Jahanbakhsh.

Getting those players the required support in the right areas may be a struggle, though, and Team Melli's preference for giving up possession is likely to limit their opportunities.

England will be aiming to produce a performance but the balmy conditions and their stubborn opposition are unlikely to do them any favours.

However, Southgate's side should have enough and an England win and under 2.5 goals is 13/8.

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