Sluggish England frustrated in US stalemate

No political football for Iran World Cup clash: US coach

Published: 10:03 AM, 26 Nov, 2022
Sluggish England frustrated in US stalemate
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England missed a chance to book their place in the World Cup last 16 as Gareth Southgate's side produced a limp display in their 0-0 draw against the United States on Friday.

Southgate's men would have been guaranteed to advance from Group B with a victory in their second game of the tournament, but they rarely troubled a determined US team.

Having thrashed Iran 6-2 on Monday, England lacked the urgency they showed in their opening game and were booed off at full-time.

They managed just one shot on target and could easily have conceded in the first half when the US were in control for long periods at the Al Bayt Stadium.

For the third time in three World Cup meetings with the US, England failed to live up to their status as favourites.

After a shocking defeat in the 1950 tournament and a 1-1 draw in 2010, this was another defiant American effort against England, cooling some of the hype around the Three Lions following the Iran rout.

"I knew after such a high (in the Iran game) it would be difficult to replicate that performance," Southgate said.

"We didn't quite have that same zip but that's going to happen. We're not going to roll through a tournament and sweep through everybody. Sometimes you have to show different qualities to get the result.

"Today puts us in a really strong position in terms of qualification. If we can win our last game we win the group and that's objective."

Although it was an extremely underwhelming performance from England, they are still in control of their own destiny.

A draw in their final group game against Wales on November 29 would ensure England progress to the knockout stages, while a victory would seal first place.

The US, who have drawn their first two games, play Iran on the same day knowing a win would send them into the last 16.

Gregg Berhalter's group are the second youngest team at the World Cup, but a day after America celebrated Thanksgiving they left sluggish England looking like they were the ones who had indulged in too much turkey.

Whereas England dominated possession against timid Iran from the opening moments, they found the US far more willing to press higher up the pitch.

- Laboured England -

The US desire to engage England briefly left space in behind them and Jude Bellingham's buccaneering run and pass freed Bukayo Saka down the right side of the US area.

Saka's cross reached Harry Kane, whose goalbound shot was blocked by Walker Zimmerman.

That near-miss proved a mirage in the desert for England as Haji Wright, a surprise selection in place of Josh Sargent, had the Americans' first sight of goal with a well-timed run into the area for a header that whistled wide.

It was a warning that the US could trouble England and moments later Weston McKennie should have put them ahead.

Timothy Weah's cross from wide on the right eluded the flat-footed England defence and the unmarked McKennie pulled the trigger from 10 yards, only to fire just wide of the relieved Jordan Pickford's goal.

Showing no signs of being intimidated by England, Berhalter's side were inches away from turning the enterprising display into a stunning lead when Christian Pulisic jinked into space and lashed a rising drive against the crossbar from just inside the area.

Giving the ball away far too easily and laboured in their build-up play, England looked rattled and Pulisic tested their fraying nerves with a header that glanced wide.

In a rare moment of menace from England, Saka's pass found Mason Mount and the Chelsea's midfielder low drive from 20 yards brought a first save from US keeper Matt Turner.

Epitomising the US spirit that was such a contrast to England's lethargy, Tyler Adams crunched into a tackle on Saka, winning the ball and roaring in delight afterwards.

England remained stuck in first gear yet Kane nearly snatched an undeserved winner in stoppage time when he headed wide from Luke Shaw's free-kick.

US coach

United States coach Gregg Berhalter said politics would not come into his team's must-win World Cup clash with Iran following the Americans' battling draw with England on Friday.

Berhalter was a satisfied man after watching his youthful US team hold mighty England to a 0-0 draw at the Al Bayt Stadium in Group B.

The result sets up a tantalising clash with Iran next Tuesday when a victory for either side would guarantee a place in the last 16.

The eagerly awaited clash is a repeat of the politically-charged 1998 World Cup game between the geopolitical foes, won 2-1 by Iran, dubbed the "Mother of all football matches."

Berhalter however insisted that while tensions between the US and Iranian governments remain, politics would not enter Tuesday's occasion.

"I've played in three different countries, and I coached in Sweden, and the thing about soccer is you meet so many different people from all around the world, and you’re united by a common love of the sport," Berhalter said.

"I envision the game being hotly contested for the fact that both teams want to advance to the next round – not because of politics or because of relations between our countries.

"We're soccer players and we're going to compete and they're going to compete and that's it."

Berhalter acknowledged however that the stakes for the game could not be higher, describing it as his team's "first knockout game" of the World Cup.

"We win or we’re out of the World Cup, and that's going to be the focus of ours in preparing the team," Berhalter said.

"But most of all we will need to understand the intensity Iran’s going to bring.

"We're going to have to be up for it if we want a chance to advance."

The USA are currently third in Group B with two points from two draws, trailing Iran in second, who reignited their campaign with a 2-0 win over Wales earlier Friday.

England, who lead the group with four points, face Wales in their final game.

That means that the US will secure a place in the knockout rounds if they beat Iran.

"Any time you're in a World Cup and you get to go into the last game controlling your destiny, that's a pretty good thing," Berhalter said.

Friday's composed US performance also carries the Americans further towards their goal of shifting global attitudes to soccer in the United States, where the NFL, basketball and baseball remain the dominant sports.

"We’re chipping away at it," Berhalter said. "You need games like tonight otherwise it's hard for people to get a good assessment of it.

"But we're not done, and we want to keep going."

US captain Tyler Adams meanwhile hailed the "next man up" doggedness of his team.

"Definitely would have preferred three points," Adams said. "But definitely happy with the performances of all the guys that performed tonight. It was that next man up mentality.

"Guys ran and competed until they couldn’t run any more.

"It's been a three-year journey full of ups and downs. But we can’t be too happy with ourselves – we’ve got to find the negatives and iron them out."

Categories : FIFA World Cup

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