World Cup: Daily predictions – England backed to edge out Iran as Wales v United States promises goals

England achieved their best run at a World Cup since 1990 in Russia four years ago, and Gareth Southgate’s team kick off their campaign against Iran on Monday.

The Three Lions are the favourites to progress from Group B, which also includes the United States and Wales, playing at just their second World Cup finals.

Wales' clash with the USA ends the first full day of action in Qatar, with Senegal – shorn of the injured Sadio Mane – taking on the Netherlands in Monday's middle match.

Here, with the help of Opta data, Stats Perform makes some key predictions ahead of the three games.

All times local.

England v Iran – Khalifa International Stadium (1600)

Iran have scored just nine goals in 15 World Cup matches. At 0.6, Iran have the lowest goals-per-game ratio of any side to play more than 10 matches in the competition. England, meanwhile, conceded only three times in qualifying.

Of England's last 18 goals at the World Cup, 12 have been scored from set-pieces. In fact, 75 per cent of their goals in the 2018 tournament came from dead-ball situations (nine out of 12).

Raheem Sterling's form at Chelsea has seen his place in England's side called into question ahead of the tournament, but he remains a key player for Gareth Southgate. The Three Lions have won all 15 games in which the 27-year-old has scored, while the former Manchester City attacker netted his nation's first three goals at Euro 2020 last year.

Player prediction – Jordan Pickford to keep a clean sheet: Of the 20 teams that have appeared in both the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, Iran have had the fewest shots (47), the fewest shots on target (10) and scored the fewest goals (three). With England conceding only three goals in qualifying, Jordan Pickford – who was in fine form in both Russia and at Euro 2020 – will be confident of a shut-out.

Best bet – England to win by one goal: England have won six World Cup openers, though their last such victories have come by only a single goal (against Paraguay in 2006 and Tunisia in 2018). With the attack not always clicking under Southgate, and Iran conceding only four times in qualifying, expect a similarly tight result this time around.

Iran have struggled to score at the World Cup
Iran have struggled to score at the World Cup

Senegal v Netherlands – Al Thumama Stadium (1900)

The Netherlands failed to qualify in 2018 but return to the big stage in Qatar. The Oranje have won all six of their group games across their last two World Cup appearances, in 2010 and 2014, with coach Louis van Gaal their boss for the latter tournament, too.

Mane's injury on the eve of the tournament threatens to derail Senegal's plans. The Bayern Munich forward has been directly involved in 12 of the past 25 goals scored by Senegal in major tournaments (Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup), scoring nine times and providing three assists. His injury represents a cruel blow to their chances.

Senegal have won each of their two opening games at a World Cup, both by a single goal (1-0 v France in 2002, 2-1 v Poland in 2018).

Player prediction – Vincent Janssen will fail to score: Memphis Depay seems unlikely to feature, in a blow for the Netherlands, with Van Gaal suggesting Vincent Janssen will start up front. The 28-year-old has scored seven international goals, though none of those have come in major tournaments, and Senegal will be glad they are going up against Janssen, not Depay.

Best bet – Netherlands to score at least twice: The Netherlands were rampant in qualifying, with six of their seven wins coming by at least two goals, and four of those finishing with a four-goal winning margin.

Wales v United States (2200) – Ahmad bin Ali Stadium

The USA have failed to score in each of their past two matches, but a Wales clean sheet is far from guaranteed – they have conceded in each of their last 11 games.

That being said, Wales rarely fail to score. Only once in their past 13 games gave they not found the net, while the USA have only kept two clean sheets in their last 27 World Cup fixtures.

Nine of Wales' 13 goals at their last two major tournaments (EURO 2016 & 2020) have seen at least one of Gareth Bale or Aaron Ramsey involved as goalscorer or assist provider.

Player prediction – Gareth Bale to score: Bale took on a starring role in Los Angeles FC's MLS Cup triumph and, after four months playing in America, the 33-year-old will be hoping to do the damage in Qatar. He is Wales' all-time leading scorer at major tournaments (three goals) and netted five times in qualifying.

Best bet – both teams to score: In 33 games at the World Cup, USA have never registered a goalless draw, a competition record, while there have been at least three goals scored in four of their last 11 games at the tournament. Wales also find the net regularly, so expect goals in this one.