USMNT’s task: Pull off an upset over powerhouse England
The last time the United States played England at the World Cup, The Post dubbed it the greatest tie against the British since Bunker Hill — a shocking 1-1 draw in Rustenburg, South Africa.
The time before that, as 500-to-1 underdogs, the United States scored one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, a 1-0 win in Belo Horizonte, Brazil in 1950.
So the history, at least, favors the Americans. So, too, does an upset-laden atmosphere at this World Cup, with Saudi Arabia stunning Argentina and Japan taking down Germany.
On paper, though, it will be a hill to climb for the United States when it takes the pitch against England for the third time in World Cup history at 2 p.m. on Friday — a game in which a result of any kind, win or draw, would prove enormous for the Americans’ chances of advancing out of Group B.
“England are still a big team at the end of the day but the intimidation factor? I wouldn’t say there’s many things out there that intimidate me, other than spiders,” American captain Tyler Adams told reporters in Doha. “So it’s fine for me, but obviously I’ve got to play all those big players [with Leeds United] so I’ve done it before.
“But we also want to show what we’re capable of and that U.S. soccer is developing and growing in the right way.”
England, one of the favorites coming into Qatar, took apart Iran in its opening match to the tune of a 6-2 victory. A national team that seemed to perennially underachieve, England has found its footing under manager Gareth Southgate, making it to the semifinals in Russia four years ago and the European championship final last summer before losing on penalties to Italy. They are calm and composed, experienced playing together and ready to make a run in what will likely be the last tournament in which this core group of players is together. And they came out swinging against Iran.
“Our attacking players looked a threat throughout the game,” Southgate told the BBC. “The midfield was excellent and the forwards looked a threat. It was a great marker to put down.”
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In its 1-1 draw against Wales, the U.S. failed to take advantage of a dominant first half, leaving what could be two massive points on the table. Without a win over England, the Americans will go into the final day of the group stage against Iran needing three points and some help in order to advance.
The Americans struggled to respond after Wales brought on striker Kieffer Moore at halftime, a big-bodied presence up front, and coach Gregg Berhalter’s substitutions came under question, both for being late in nature and for not including Giovanni Reyna, whose health is in some question. Berhalter and Reyna both said that he was available on Monday, and would be on Friday.
As for England, striker Harry Kane is expected to play after suffering an ankle injury against Iran. Their star-laden lineup also included Raheem Sterling, Bukayo Saka and Kieran Trippier against Iran, with Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford coming off the bench.
“You’re getting to play England. That’s the recovery right there,” Berhalter said, asked about the three-day turnaround off the Wales game. “You get to play one of the teams that we think is a favorite of the tournament. I think there’s not going to be many tired players come Friday.”
That would be step one to adding another upset to the list.