USMNT battles England to a goalless draw in World Cup matchup


KHOR, Qatar — About seven months ago, when USA and England fell into the same group in the World Cup draw, the countdown to Friday’s clash at the tent-inspired Al Bayt Stadium began. The young Americans had made strides in their rebuilding efforts, but this delicious matchup gave them a chance to measure their progress and rub shoulders with global soccer royalty.

They were not intimidated by their beaming opponents and created two wonderful chances before half-time. Disciplined and mature, they never deviated from the plan laid out by coach Gregg Berhalter. They silenced a team that had scored six goals in the opener.

Despite the game ending in a 0-0 draw, the United States relished their performance and appreciated their chances of emerging from a wildly choppy Group B. On Tuesday, the Americans went into the final series of games (0-0-2, two points) and must beat Iran (1-1-0, three points) to secure one of two places in the round of 16. England (1-0-1, four points) meets Wales (0-1-1, one point). in the other game.

“I’m happy about the performance of the group and above all about the conviction of the group, because it never wavered,” said Berhalter. “And what I saw in pregame was a team that was extremely focused on getting a result. In the end, it sets up our first KO match of the World Cup. We win or we’re out of the World Cup.”

Midfielder Weston McKennie said: “The most important thing is that we control the outcome of our journey in this tournament.”

The Americans grew into the game and made things difficult for the Three Lions, who have high hopes of lifting their first World Cup trophy since 1966. “We were able to compete with them,” said striker Christian Pulisic.

The United States created the better scoring chances and, as anyone can argue, outperformed a team that finished fourth at the 2018 World Cup and second at the 2020 European Championships (held in 2021).

“There’s a lot of people who obviously thought we were going to get blown out,” McKennie said. “There are a lot of people on the outside world who thought we were obvious outsiders, but to us, we didn’t feel like outsiders at all.”

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The United States are 2-8-2 all-time against England, having won 29 years before but unbeaten in three World Cup matches (1-0-2). In this clash, it was impossible to tell whether the blue-bloods belonged to the rising stars, the team was full of international novices with expensive international stars.

“This team has come a very long way and we should be proud of the achievement,” said Pulisic. “Most of all it should inspire confidence and give us a great feeling going into this final game which is a must for us.”

England set the tone but it wasn’t long before USA’s optimism gave way to sustained possession and two glorious opportunities.

With nine unmarked yards to go, McKennie missed badly. He gripped his wedge of dyed red, white and blue hair in frustration, knowing such opportunities were likely to be rare.

Seven minutes later, Pulisic worked his way into a gap inside the penalty area and aimed for the top short corner. His 16-yarder left footed goaltender Jordan Pickford but fell off the bar.

English fans grew restless. US supporters mocked her, shouting, “It’s called football!”

While controlling much of the game, the Americans continue to struggle to score. They failed to score in either of the last two votes in September and scored just once in the first half of Monday’s 1-1 draw with Wales.

“We were happy with the positions we got and we had some close chances,” said Berhalter.

However, the defense made up for it with a flawless performance against world-class forward Harry Kane and his strong supporting cast. England never seemed comfortable in possession and struggled to find solutions to a well-structured US defence.

The only goal the US team conceded in their first two games was Gareth Bale’s late penalty for Wales. On Friday, the United States blanked out a European World Cup opponent for the first time since their historic riot against England in 1950.

England had good chances late in each half. Matt Turner made a diving save to brush aside Mason Mount’s bid just before half-time and Kane won an aerial duel on Luke Shaw’s free-kick but missed his header from eight yards.

For the most part, the Three Lions struggled to unleash a US resistance that offered an unexpected look: while the team retained three forwards when in possession, Pulisic dropped from the front line into midfield as England gained possession.

Central defenders Walker Zimmerman and Tim Ream didn’t crack. Inspiration came from captain Tyler Adams, who won loose ball after loose ball from his place in defensive midfield and executed a great tackle in the penalty area to avoid trouble.

The Three Lions tried to up the tempo towards the end of the game, but the Americans were undeterred.

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According to the way things were going, Berhalter only made his first move after about 15 minutes. McKennie and Sergiño Dest were booked out of the game against Wales, avoiding an extra caution that would have resulted in a suspension for the Iran game.

Gio Reyna, the 20-year-old sensation, made his long-awaited World Cup debut in the 83rd minute, but the Americans had no chance. Despite not scoring and winning, they continued to gain respect from the football world after missing out on the 2018 World Cup. Profits were made both from their large following here and from the general public at home.

“I spoke before the World Cup about how seriously the team takes this responsibility to bring momentum to the sport in America, and good performances will do that,” Berhalter said. “We want to draw the public’s attention. We want to play at a high level. We want to give them something to be proud of. And nights like tonight help, but there’s more to come.”

World Cup in Qatar

The newest: The United States drew 0-0 with England in their second World Cup game on Friday to set up a group final against Iran they must win. Read the highlights of the Group B game.

Political protest: The looming backdrop to Iran’s World Cup campaign is a nationwide protest movement at home against the clerical leadership, and the tensions that are inevitable and ongoing are spreading on the pitch.

Highlights: Where Saudi Arabia was still up against Argentina on Tuesday, the 73rd-minute spectacle erupted in Brazil against Serbia. Richarlison’s miracle cemented Brazil’s 2-0 opening win.

Perspective: The beautiful game is fine. Suitcases full of cash are better. Read Sally Jenkins on the human rights controversy in Qatar.

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