Sebastian Salazar looks at the challenges awaiting the USMNT in Group B of the World Cup. (1:31)
The draw for the 2022 World Cup is done. The field is largely set — three places remain up for grabs through playoffs, contested by Wales, Scotland, Ukraine, Peru, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Costa Rica and New Zealand. With 29 teams learning their opponents at Qatar 2022, let’s use numbers to break down some of the most intriguing matchups of the tournament, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information.
The United States men’s national team are unbeaten in two previous meetings against England, with the Americans and Three Lions contesting Group B along with Iran and the winner of the UEFA playoff of Wales vs. the rescheduled semifinal between Scotland and Ukraine. The last time the U.S. and England met was in the group stage of the 2010 World Cup, which finished in a 1-1 draw.
The Americans also have a World Cup history with Iran. The U.S. fell 2-1 in the pair’s only tournament meeting, midway through a 1998 group stage in which the USMNT would lose all three games (2-0 to Germany, 2-1 to Iran and 1-0 to Yugoslavia). The last time the U.S. met a group-stage opponent from the Asian Football Confederation was 2002, when they battled for a 1-1 draw with South Korea.
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Historically speaking, France have something of a mountain to climb: The past three defending champions have gone out in the group stage — Italy in 2010, Spain in 2014 and Germany in 2018. But there is much optimism for for Les Bleus, and here’s why:
In the two World Cups that France have won (1998 and 2018), they were drawn into the same group as Denmark, whom Kylian Mbappe & Co. will meet in Group D. It will be the fourth time that the two countries have met in the group stage. The only group-stage matchups that have occurred more often are Serbia/Yugoslavia vs. Brazil and Argentina vs. Nigeria.
For Mexico, the odds appear to be stacked against Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s team. Drawn into Group C with Argentina, Poland and Saudi Arabia, El Tri have lost all four World Cup matchups against their group-stage opponents: three defeats to Argentina, and another to Poland.
If Mexico are unable to break their duck against Argentina, only six teams will have played more times against a single opponent without beating them, including Mexico vs. Brazil (five times). Lionel Messi‘s record of three goals in five games against El Tri won’t do much to ease Mexican nerves.
There’s a silver lining, though, for Mexico. Three of the past six World Cup champions came out of Group C: France in 2018, Brazil in 2002 and France in 1998. And every time they have faced a South American team in the group stage, they’ve advanced to the knockout round: 1986, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018.
Qatar will make their World Cup debut in the tournament’s opening match against Ecuador on Nov. 21 at Al Bayt Stadium. Only twice before has a host country made its World Cup debut: Uruguay in 1930 and Italy in 1934 — the first two World Cups ever played. In fact, excluding the first-ever tournaments for both men (1930) and women (1991), only Italy and Qatar (both men’s teams) made their World Cup debut as a host nation.
Argentina are on a 31-game unbeaten streak, the longest active by any national team and six shy of the world record set by Italy in 2021. Before Messi & Co. get to take on Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia, with that record in their sights, they’ll have to beat that history-making Azzurri in the Finalissima (pitting the champions of South America and Europe against one another) on June 1 at Wembley.
Brazil were drawn into Group G alongside Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon. The Selecao are winless against the Swiss in World Cup play with two draws (1950 and 2018). And, in a bit of déjà vu, Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia were lumped together in the same group at Russia 2018.
Uruguay are an interesting case in Group H. They have faced all of their group-stage opponents in recent knockout rounds: a 2-1 win over South Korea in the round of 16 in 2010, a controversial win over Ghana on penalties in the same tournament’s quarterfinals (remember that Luis Suarez handball?) and a 2-1 victory over Portugal in the 2018 edition of the round of 16.