The United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) will get a shot to make a statement early in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar on Black Friday with a match against No.5 ranked England. England won their first match in convincing fashion with a 6-2 beating over Iran. The USMNT drew 1-1 against Wales in the opening round.
The USMNT opened the scoring in the first match with a well-placed pass from Christian Pulisic to Timothy Weah who was able to chip the ball into the back of the net. They should have been able to secure a win in the match, but a foul in the final minutes gave Gareth Bale an opportunity for a penalty shot that beat goalkeeper Matt Turner.
The tie gives both Wales and the U.S. a point in the competition. While no team is completely out after the first round, failing to earn points early makes the process of advancing to the Round of 16 more of a challenge.
England earned three points with their victory over Iran. Another win will ensure that England advances, while a draw may be enough to propel the Three Lions onward. Following the match, manager Gareth Southgate told the media that he was not happy with his team for allowing Iran to score late in the game.
He has also cautioned his team not to take the youthful USMNT lightly.
“I didn’t like the end of the game. To concede two goals the way we did isn’t the level we need,” the manager said in postgame interviews. “We are going to have to be better than we were today in certain aspects of our game against the USA because they are going to be coming for us full-throttle and we are going to have to reset.”
The USMNT boasts a fast press that can quickly attack down the pitch as was the case in the goal against Wales. Head coach Gregg Berhalter will need to take advantage of the potential weakness that England showed late in the game and attack early. The team has a pattern of playing their best football in the first half, while England is often viewed as a second-half team.
The USMNT has yet to dazzle on the international stage and struggled in friendlies held over the last several months in preparation for the World Cup. After a convincing 5-0 win against Grenada, the US team lost to Japan and then drew against Saudi Arabia. The USMNT is one of the youngest teams to play in the competition with an average age of just 25 years and 102 days.
Berhalter has extensive experience with the England team and spent 18 months with the team in the early 2000s. England represents the biggest challenge to the young American team yet in World Cup competition.
“I think they’re going to be one of the favorites to win the World Cup — if not the favorite,” Berhalter said. “Every player besides Jude Bellingham is playing in the Premier League, it’s the strongest league in the world. Week in and week out you’re challenged with top-level competition, and that just makes the players stronger.”
An American victory would represent perhaps the biggest upset yet in the 2022 World Cup, but even a draw will keep the team in a competitive space heading into the final match where the USMNT will play against Iran on November 29.