USMNT battles England to a scoreless draw in World Cup match


KHOR, Qatar — About seven months ago, when the United States and England fell into the same group in the World Cup draw, the countdown to Friday’s game at the marquee-inspired Al Bayt Stadium began. The young Americans had made progress in their rebuilding, but this delightful game allowed them to measure their progress and engage with global football nobility.

They were not deterred by the luminous opponent and created two wonderful opportunities before the break. Disciplined and mature, they never deviated from coach Gregg Berhalter’s plan. They silenced a team that scored six runs in their opener.

Although the game ended in a 0-0 draw, the United States enjoyed their performance and enjoyed the chances of coming out of a hugely troubled Group B. On Tuesday, the Americans (0-0-2, two points) went on to beat Iran (1-1-0, three points) to secure one of two places in the round of 16. England (1-0-1, four points) take on Wales (0-1-1, one point) in the other game.

“I am satisfied with the group’s performance and, more importantly, the group’s belief, because that has 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 makes for our first knockout match of the World Cup. We win or we are out of the World Cup.”

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

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

The United States created the better scoring opportunities and, dare one say, was superior to a team that finished fourth at the 2018 World Cup and second at the 2020 European Championship (played in 2021).

“There are a lot of people who clearly thought we were going to be blown away,” McKennie said. “There are a lot of people in the outside world who thought we were clear underdogs, but to us we didn’t feel like underdogs at all.”

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The United States is always 2-8-2 against England, with the previous victory 29 years ago, but in three World Cup meetings it is unbeaten (1-0-2). In this clash, the blue blood of the upstarts was indisputable, the team piled up with expensive international stars from the international newbies.

“This team has come a very long way and we can be proud of the achievement,” said Pulisic. “Above all, it has to inspire confidence and it has to give us a good feeling going into this last game, which is a must-win for us.”

England set the tone, but it wasn’t long before American periods of optimism gave way to sustained possession and two glorious chances.

Unmarked nine yards from target, McKennie missed badly. Frustrated, he clutched at his red, white, and blue dyed lock of hair, knowing that such opportunities would probably be rare.

Seven minutes later, Pulisic pocketed himself just inside the box and took aim for the top corner. His left-footed 16-year-old beat goalkeeper Jordan Pickford but crashed off the crossbar.

England fans became restless. They mocked them and chanted American supporters: “It’s called football!”

Although they controlled large parts of the game, the Americans continued to struggle to score. They failed to score in either of their last two tune-ups in September, scoring just one goal in the first half of Monday’s 1-1 draw with Wales.

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

However, the defense compensated with an impeccable performance against world class striker Harry Kane and his strong supporting cast. England never seemed comfortable in possession and worked to find solutions for a well-structured American defense.

The only goal conceded by the US team in the first two games came on Gareth Bale’s late penalty for Wales. Friday was the first time the United States has knocked out a European World Cup opponent since England’s historic surprise in 1950.

England had quality chances late in each half. Matt Turner made a diving save to sideline Mason Mount’s bid just before the break and Kane won an aerial duel on Luke Shaw’s free-kick, but his eight-yard header went wide.

For the most part, the Three Lions worked to unlock an American resistance that offered an unexpected look: while the team maintained three forwards when it had the ball, Pulisic dropped from the frontline to midfield as England took possession.

Central defenders Walker Zimmerman and Tim Ream did not crack. Inspiration came from captain Tyler Adams, who won one ball after another from his defensive midfield and made a beautiful tackle in the penalty area to avoid trouble.

The Three Lions tried to pick up the pace late in the game, but the Americans were undeterred.

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Berhalter liked the way things were going and didn’t make his first move until about 15 minutes remained. With the Wales match booked, McKennie and Sergiño Dest left the match, avoiding an additional caution which would have resulted in the match against Iran being suspended.

Gio Reyna, the 20-year-old sensation, made his long-awaited World Cup debut in the 83rd minute, but the Americans had no chance. Although they didn’t score and didn’t win, they continued to gain respect from the football world after missing out on the 2018 World Cup. Profits were made both from their large army of fans here and from the general public at home.

“I spoke before the World Cup about how seriously the team takes this responsibility to accelerate the sport in America, and good performances will do that,” said Berhalter. “We want to grab the attention of the public. We want to perform 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 last: The United States will draw England 0-0 in their second World Cup match on Friday to set up a must-win group final against Iran. Read the highlights of the match in Group B.

Political protest: The looming backdrop to Iran’s World Cup campaign is a nationwide protest movement in the home country targeting her church leadership, and tensions, inescapable and persistent, run across the field.

Highlights: Where Saudi Arabia had been over Argentina on Tuesday, the spectacle now came to Brazil over Serbia after 73 minutes. Richarlison’s miraculous goal confirmed Brazil’s 2-0 opening win.

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

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