They were undaunted by a scintillating opponent and created two delightful chances before the break. They were disciplined and mature and never deviated from the plan laid out by coach Greg Berhalter. They silenced a team that scored six times in its opening game.
Although the game ended in a 0-0 draw, the US was pleased with its performance and liked its chances going forward. Group B is largely unsolved. Entering Tuesday’s finals, the Americans (0-0-2, two points) must defeat Iran (1-1-0, three points) to earn one of two berths in the round of 16. England (1-0) -1, four points) will face Wales (0-1-1, one point) in the other game.
“I’m happy with the team’s performance and, more importantly, the team’s confidence because it never wavered,” Berhalter said. “And what I saw in the pregame was a team very focused on getting a result. At the end of the day, it sets up the first knockout game of the World Cup. We either win or we’re out of the World Cup.
Midfielder Weston McKenney said, “The most important thing is that we control the end of our journey in this match.”
The Americans grew into competition and made things difficult for the Three Lions, who had high hopes of winning their first World Cup since 1966. “We went toe-to-toe with them,” forward Christian Pulisic said.
The USA created the best scoring chances, arguably better than a team that finished fourth at the 2018 World Cup and second at the 2020 European Championships (played in 2021).
“There were a lot of people who obviously thought we were going to explode,” McKenney said. “There are many people in the outside world who think we are obvious underdogs, but for us, we don’t feel like an underdog.”
The U.S. is 2-8-2 against England, with the previous win coming 29 years ago, but in three World Cup meetings, it is undefeated (1-0-2). In this clash, the team is stacked with expensive international stars from international debutants.
“This team has come a long way and we should be proud of the performance,” Pulisic said. “Above all, it should inspire confidence and give us a great feeling that we need to win this last match.”
England set the tone, but before long American hopes gave way to prolonged possession and two glorious chances.
An unmarked McKenney missed badly nine yards from goal. He clutched his red-white-and-blue dyed hair in desperation, knowing that such opportunities would be rare.
Seven minutes later, Pulisic worked himself into a pocket inside the penalty area and headed into the top corner. His left-footed 16-footer beat the goalkeeper past Jordan Pickford but hit the crossbar.
English fans grew restless. Jeering at them, American supporters chanted, “It’s called football!”
Although they controlled large portions of the match, the Americans continued to have problems scoring. They failed to score in the final two tuneups in September and scored just one goal in the first half of Monday’s 1-1 draw against Wales.
“We were happy with the positions we got and we had some close chances,” Berhalter said.
However, the defense compensated with an immaculate performance against world-class striker Harry Kane and his strong supporting cast. England never seemed to get comfortable and worked to find solutions to a well-constructed American defense.
The only goal the USA conceded in the first two games came on a late penalty kick by Gareth Bale to Wales. Friday marked the first time the U.S. had defeated a European World Cup opponent since their historic upset of England in 1950.
England managed quality chances in each half. Matt Turner made a diving save to keep out Mason Mount’s effort just before the break, and Kane won an aerial battle from Luke Shaw’s free-kick but drove his eight-yard header wide.
For the most part, the Three Lions worked to open up the American opposition, giving it an unexpected look: when the team’s three forwards kept the ball, Pulisic dropped from the front row into midfield when England were in possession.
Center backs Walker Zimmerman and Tim Ream didn’t crack. Inspired by Captain Tyler Adams, from his defensive midfield slot, won loose ball after loose ball and executed a great block in the penalty area to prevent trouble.
The Three Lions tried to pick up the pace late in the game, but the Americans weren’t fazed.
Liking the way things were going, Berhalter didn’t make his first move until about 15 minutes remained. Wales picked up yellow cards from the match, McKenney and Sergino exited the Test, and Iran were suspended from the match, barring an extra caution.
20-year-old sensation Gio Reyna made his long-awaited World Cup debut in the 83rd minute, but the Americans had no chance. Although they did not score and win, they continued to receive respect from the football world after missing out on the 2018 World Cup. Gains were made by both their large fan base here and the general public back home.
“I spoke before the World Cup about how seriously the team takes this responsibility to gain momentum in the game in America, and a good performance will do that,” Berhalter said. “We want to get the public’s attention. We want to perform at a high level. We want to give them something to be proud of. Nights like tonight help, but there has to be more.
World Cup in Qatar
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