World Cup: Daily predictions – England and USA to bring the goals, Taremi or Bale to score

FIFA

Matchday two of the World Cup is already upon us, with eight teams in action for the second time on Friday.

Hosts Qatar need a response to their dire 2-0 defeat to Ecuador in the tournament's opening game last week when they face Senegal, while Group A rivals the Netherlands will be aiming to make it two wins from two.

In Group B, England crushed Iran 6-2 last time out and will secure their place in the knockout stages with a win over a United States side that were held to a draw by Wales on matchday one.

Gareth Bale and Co. will hope England do them a favour against the USA and that they can see off Iran in similarly comfortable fashion.

Harnessing Opta data, Stats Perform makes some key predictions ahead of another day of busy action as the World Cup enters its second week.

Wales v Iran – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium (1300)

It is fair to say the omens are not great for Iran ahead of this game. They have never beaten European opposition at the World Cup in nine previous attempts, conceding 20 goals in the process.

On top of that, Wales have faced Asian opponents seven times and never lost, keeping a clean sheet in six of those games.

Nevertheless, Iran's 6-2 demolition by England was extremely out of character for a Carlos Queiroz team. Granted, he may have only won two of his 11 World Cup matches, but before that defeat to the Three Lions they had only conceded seven times.

Losing by four should not be seen as the norm.

Player Prediction – Mehdi Taremi or Gareth Bale to score: Scorers for their respective teams on matchday one, they will again likely be the ones shouldering such responsibility. Bale has eight in his past 12 appearances for Wales, while Taremi has 16 in 22 for Iran – they also both take penalties, as shown last time out.

Best Bet – Wales to score and win: Rob Page's side have a good record against Asian teams as previously mentioned, while Iran have never kept a clean sheet against a European side in the World Cup.

 

Qatar v Senegal – Al Thumama Stadium (1600)

Senegal's 2-0 loss to the Oranje on Saturday was tighter than the scoreline suggests, with the Teranga Lions managing 15 shots – only once have they attempted more in a World Cup game (26 versus Sweden in 2002).

By contrast, Qatar did not register a single shot on target against Ecuador. If they repeat that unwanted feat against Senegal, they will become only the second team since 1966 to manage no accurate efforts in consecutive World Cup matches.

Similarly, Qatar will become just the fifth host nation to lose back-to-back World Cup matches if they are beaten on Friday, and that would make qualification for the knockout stage all but impossible.

Player Prediction – Ismaila Sarr to score or assist: Watford winger Sarr was Senegal's chief threat against the Netherlands, having more shots (three) and creating more chances (four) than any of his team-mates as he played a role in 47 per cent of their 15 attempts.

Best Bet – Senegal to win 2-1: All three of Senegal's World Cup victories have come by a one-goal margin, with their last two wins in the competition coming courtesy of a 2-1 scoreline. But they also have not kept a clean sheet since their first-ever World Cup game in 2002.

 

Netherlands v Ecuador – Khalifa International Stadium (1900)

The two winners from matchday one in Group A tussle on Friday, and the Netherlands in particular will be full of belief having only lost twice to South American teams in 14 games at the World Cup.

If they avoid defeat again, Louis van Gaal will go level with Italy legend Vittorio Pozzo with the most World Cup matches managed without defeat (nine).

Ecuador were comfortable against Qatar and should not be taken lightly having impressed in qualifying as well, though they have not won back-to-back World Cup games since 2006.

Player Prediction – Enner Valencia to have at least one shot on target: Striker Valencia has been a dependable figure for Ecuador at the World Cup, managing at least one shot on target in all four of his World Cup appearances, and tallying five goals.

Best Bet – Goalless at half-time: Five of the Netherlands' past six World Cup games have been goalless at half-time, and they have kept a clean sheet in each of the last four. Similarly, Ecuador have not conceded in any of their previous seven matches across all competitions.

England v United States – Al Bayt Stadium (2200)

Any "special relationship" between these two countries will be firmly forgotten at kick-off and there is every reason to expect an entertaining encounter.

The USA have played more World Cup games without ever having a 0-0 draw than any other team (34) and not kept a clean sheet since the 1950 tournament, while their previous 11 clashes with England have produced 48 goals.

England have come out on top in eight of those 11 meetings and will be confident of doing so again given their plethora of attacking options, five of whom scored again Iran – only once before (six in 2018) have the Three Lions had more scorers at a World Cup.

Player Prediction – Marcus Rashford to score: He will probably be named among the substitutes initially, but he looked sharp off the bench against Iran and scored a lovely goal. In fact, that was a sixth goal (out of 11 in total) as a substitute for club and country this season. He knows how to have an impact, even if he only makes a cameo appearance.

Best Bet – Four or more goals: The 11 previous meetings between England and the USA have averaged 4.4 goals per game, while the Three Lions proved their goalscoring prowess against Iran.