FIFA's rankings reveal England have toughest group at the World Cup

Not QUITE so easy! FIFA’s rankings reveal England actually have the TOUGHEST group at the World Cup, with United States, Iran and either Wales, Scotland and Ukraine lying in wait for Gareth Southgate’s side

  • England were drawn with United States, Iran and the European play-off winner
  • Wales will face either Scotland or Ukraine in June – the winner will be in Group B 
  • Looking at the FIFA rankings, England statistically have the toughest draw 
  • England’s first game will be on the opening day of the 2022 World Cup, Nov 21  

England’s draw for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is statistically the toughest in the tournament, according to the FIFA rankings. 

Despite initial reactions of a ‘dream draw’ for Gareth Southgate’s side as they were put in Group B alongside USA, Iran and one of Wales, Scotland or Ukraine, the average world ranking of all four sides is the highest. 

A calculation published online by journalist Nick Harris, who writes sporting investigations for The Mail on Sunday, revealed Group B has an average ranking of 14.75 on the assumption the highest-ranked out of the three play-off teams – Wales – reach the finals. 

England’s draw for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is statistically the toughest in the tournament

A study published by journalist Nick Harris shows Group B has an average ranking of 14.75 on the assumption the highest-ranked out of the three play-off teams – Wales – reach the finals

England have discovered their fate for the group stages of the 2022 Qatar World Cup

That ranking is higher than any other group, with Group D of France, Peru/UAE/Australia, Denmark and Tunisia the second-hardest group drawn in Doha, Qatar on Friday evening. 


Before the draw: 

Brazil – 11/2

France – 7/1

ENGLAND – 15/2

Spain – 8/1

Germany – 19/2

Argentina – 12/1

Belgium – 12/1

Portugal – 16/1

After the draw: 

Brazil – 11/2


France – 7/1

Spain – 9/1

Argentina – 10/1

Germany – 12/1

Belgium – 12/1

Portugal – 14/1


Statistically, the weakest group is Group A which includes hosts Qatar, Holland, Senegal and Ecuador. 

Gareth Southgate’s side will be looking to end 56 years of hurt when they head to the Gulf state this winter.

The Three Lions moved into second favourites with bookmakers behind Brazil after the draw and will play in the group stages between November 21 and December 2 and will play their first match – against Iran – on the opening day of the tournament.

After being drawn in Group B they will face either hosts Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal or Holland (Group A) in the last 16. 

England are on the same side of the draw as France and so could face the world champions in the quarter-finals should they win their respective groups.

They could then come up against Belgium or Portugal in the semi-finals followed by Spain, Germany or Brazil in the final.

The exact match schedule will be decided at a later point in a break from tradition. FIFA want to work out the best programme for television audiences around the world. 

‘The first two are obviously teams we have not played for quite a while and the third is a total unknown but throws up a possible British derby. We know what they are all about,’ Southgate told the BBC.

‘We are in on day one so it’s quite clear what our programme is now with the end of the Premier League and getting here as quickly as possible.

‘The first objective is to get out the group regardless of the opposition and go from there.

‘I think in this situation all of our thoughts are with Ukraine and the people of Ukraine.

England have recaptured fans’ hearts in recent years and have moved into second favourites to win the World Cup this year following today’s draw

England captain Harry Kane tweeted moments after England’s opponents were revealed

‘When that tie is played and how it is played is irrelevant and we will all adjust to enable them to play when they are able to.


November 21-December 2: Group stage

December 3-6: Last 16

December 9-10: Quarter-finals

December 13-14: Semi-finals

December 18: Final 

‘I think when you’re seeded, you get the advantage of missing out on those top six or seven teams. For most of the first seeds, they would be pleased with the first group.

‘The US is an interesting one, I have met Gregg Berhalter many times and had some long chats. They have some very good players and we know what they are capable of as a nation.’

Upon discovering the outcome of the draw, England captain and striker Harry Kane tweeted: ‘Always exciting to see who we get in the group! Playing on the opening day will be incredible as well.’

England, who have recaptured fans’ hearts in recent years, have fallen short on the global stage ever since that famous triumph over West Germany in 1966 but optimism is building.

They are on an upward trajectory under Southgate after reaching the World Cup semi-finals four years ago.

They went one better last summer as they reached the European Championships final on home soil, only to be beaten by Italy on penalties. 

Southgate vowed his side can finally put the nation out of their misery and claim the ultimate prize in international football this year.

Gareth Southgate’s side will look to end 56 years of hurt after last winning World Cup in 1966

The Three Lions exited the World Cup at the semi-final stage four years ago after Croatia loss



Who’s the manager?

Dragan Skocic – The Croatian coach was appointed in February 2020 as a replacement for former Belgium manager Marc Wilmots and has guided Iran through qualifying and to their sixth World Cup appearances.

Skocic has great experience of the Iranian football system, having worked with domestic clubs  Malavana and Foolad. He has a sublime track record so far, winning 15 of the 17 games he has overseen as manager.

Who’s the star man?

Sardar Azmoun – Azmoun was once a target for Liverpool in the Brendan Rodgers era at Anfield after impressing in Russia. A move to Anfield never materialised though and instead he stayed and joined Zenit St Petersburg, scoring 62 goals in 104 games.

His big move came in January when German side Bayer Leverkusen opted to bring forward his arrival to the Bundesliga from this summer. The 27-year-old is yet to find the back of the net for his new club but his speed and pressing will be a problem for teams in Qatar.

How did they qualify?

After working their way through the deep qualifying pool in Asia, Iran finished top of the AFC’s third round – a round robin system featuring the seven group winners and five best runners-up.

Iran won their group with eight wins from 10 matches, beating Son Heung-min and South Korea to top spot. 

Chance of winning the trophy – 1/5

Iran won their group with eight wins from 10 matches, beating South Korea to top spot

United States

Who’s the manager?

Gregg Berhalter – Berhalter was handpicked to take over as US coach back in 2018 when he was plucked from MLS franchise Columbus Crew as part of a huge reset following a shambolic 2-1 defeat by Trinidad and Tobago that saw them miss out.

After an uninspiring first year in charge, Berhalter has managed to make the most of the promising crop of American talent springing up across Europe and get a tune out of them. A former defender, the 48-year-old represented the US at two World Cups – 2002 and 2006. 

Who’s the star man?

Christian Pulisic – The Chelsea winger has been the poster boy for American football for a number of years and had to put up with team-mates that simply just weren’t as good as him.

But now he has some back-up in the form of Tyler Adams, Giovanni Reyna, Ricardo Pepi, Sergino Dest and Weston McKennie. With a hat-trick against Panama earlier this week, Pulisic proved he will be their biggest threat in Qatar.

How did they qualify?

It was nerve-shredding but the US sealed their place at Qatar this week by claiming the third and final automatic space in North America behind Canada and Mexico, despite losing to Costa Rica in their final match.

Their place was all but sealed before the game after beating Panama earlier in the week but still, a 2-0 loss to Costa Rica is not exactly how you want to celebrate a World Cup return. 

Chance of winning the trophy – 1/5

Chelsea winger Christian Pulisic will be the United States’ key attacking player in Qatar 

Wales v Scotland/Ukraine

England will have to wait to find out who will be the fourth team to round up Group B.

Wales are set to play the winners of Scotland against Ukraine in June to discover who will make the tournament in Qatar.

It means England face the prospect of a potential Home Nations tie against Wales or Scotland.

Wales have only ever reached the World Cup finals once, way back in 1958, when they progressed through a group phase to reach the quarter-finals, losing to eventual winners Brazil in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Gareth Bale scored twice as Wales beat Austria 2-1 in their semi-final play-off match.

Scotland meanwhile have not played at a World Cup since France in 1998 when they were knocked out in a group which involved Morocco, Norway and Brazil.

Steve Clarke’s side managed to frustrate England at the European Championships last summer, holding them to a goalless draw though they were knocked out at the group stage.

England also faced Ukraine at the European Championships a 4-0 win in the quarter-finals.

Ukraine’s delayed match with Scotland comes on the back of the invasion by Russia.


Group stage

Monday, November 21

Qatar v Ecuador – Al Bayt Stadium, 10am

Senegal v Holland

England v Iran

USA v Wales/Scotland/Ukraine

Tuesday, November 22

Argentina v Saudi Arabia

Mexico v Poland

France v Peru/UAE/Australia

Denmark v Tunisia

Wednesday, November 23

Spain v Costa Rica/New Zealand

Germany v Japan

Belgium v Canada

Morocco v Croatia

Thursday, November 24

Brazil v Serbia

Switzerland v Cameroon

Portugal v Ghana

Uruguay v South Korea

Friday, November 25

England v USA

Iran v Wales/Scotland/Ukraine

Qatar v Senegal

Holland v Ecuador

Saturday, November 26

France v Denmark

Tunisia v Peru/UAE/Australia

Argentina v Mexico

Poland v Saudi Arabia

Sunday, November 27

Belgium v Morocco

Croatia v Canada

Spain v Germany

Japan v Costa Rica/New Zealand

Monday, November 28

Portugal v Uruguay

South Korea v Ghana

Brazil v Switzerland

Cameroon v Serbia

Tuesday, November 29

Holland v Qatar

Ecuador v Senegal

Wales/Scotland/Ukraine v England

Iran v USA

Wednesday, November 30

Poland v Argentina

Saudi Arabia v Mexico

Tunisia v France

Peru/UAE/Australia v Denmark

Thursday, December 1

Japan v Spain

Costa Rica/New Zealand v Germany

Croatia v Belgium

Canada v Morocco

Friday, December 2

Cameroon v Brazil

Serbia v Switzerland

South Korea v Portugal

Ghana v Uruguay

Last 16

Saturday, December 3

Match 49 – 1A v 2B – Khalifa International Stadium, 3pm

Match 50 – 1C v 2D – Al Rayyan Stadium, 7pm

Sunday, December 4

Match 52 – 1D v 2C – Al Thumama Stadium, 3pm

Match 51 – 1B v 2A – Al Bayt Stadium, 7pm

Monday, December 5

Match 53 – 1E v 2F – Al Janoub Stadium, 3pm

Match 54 – 1G v 2H – Ras Abu Aboud Stadium, 7pm

Tuesday, December 6

Match 55 – 1F v 2E – Education City Stadium, 3pm

Match 56 – 1H v 2G – Lusail Stadium, 7pm


Friday, December 9

Match 57 – Winner of Match 49 v Winner Match 50 – Lusail Stadium, 7pm

Match 58 – Winner of Match 53 v Winner Match 54 – Education City Stadium, 3pm

Saturday, December 10

Match 59 – Winner Match 51 v Winner Match 52 – Al Bayt Stadium, 7pm

Match 60 – Winner Match 55 v Winner Match 56 – Al Thumama Stadium, 3pm


Tuesday, December 13

Match 61 – Winner Match 57 v Winner Match 58 – Lusail Stadium, 7pm

Wednesday, December 14

Match 62 – Winner Match 59 v Winner Match 60 – Al Bayt Stadium, 7pm

Third-place play-off

Saturday, December 17

Match 63 – Khalifa International Stadium, 3pm


Sunday, December 18

Match 64 – Lusail Stadium, 3pm

Kick-off times and venues for group stage matches to be assigned on Saturday.

All kick-off times where given are GMT.  

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