Nobody expects the United States to defeat England.
Odds makers say Friday’s World Cup match in Al Khor on the edge of the Qatari desert is a great mismatch, like lambs being led to the slaughter. England ranks fifth in the world. I reached the semi-finals of the last World Cup and the final of the last European Championship.
And what about the United States? Well, it did nothing to compare.
“We haven’t achieved anything as a group on the world stage,” coach Greg Berhalter admitted.
Before you go out and bet the farm on the Three Lions, here’s a fact to keep in mind: The Americans have never lost to England in a World Cup, winning in 1950 and playing to a draw 12 years ago in South Africa. And they don’t give away anything that goes into this game.
“I don’t think anything scares me. Other than spiders,” captain Tyler Adams said Thursday.
Adams is one of eight members of the US squad to play soccer in the UK, and that has helped erase some of the mystery surrounding the English game. While Americans respect England, they no longer fear it.
“England are currently one of the favorites to win the World Cup. People might say we are the underdogs,” Adams said. “But we carry that with pride. We have to perform in matches and show. We know our quality can show and our determination can show.”
If this does not happen, the offer may soon end for the United States. After drawing in the tournament opener with Wales, losing to England will be a huge blow to the Americans’ chances of making it to the knockout stages. On the contrary, winning will bring you a big step closer to progress.
Berhalter said Thursday he expects to have a full squad, with forward Gio Reina, midfielder Weston McKinney and outside back. Sergino d’Este – who have all dealt with fitness issues – are available to play.
Meanwhile, Adams said he saw an opportunity for the United States to exploit the way England was playing. In the US opener, Wells set up a low block and allowed the USA to have the ball most of the night while holding it to just a goal. England, on the other hand, plays a game based on possession and short passing. In his first match, he had the ball for 70 of his 90 minutes and completed 716 passes, the third most in a regulation-length match in World Cup history, while defeating Iran 6–2.
“I think it has to do with our strengths in a way,” said Adams. “We feel that one of the qualities of our squad, which we have built over the last three years, is compelling. The number of players we have in the squad who can get in and around the ball, the athleticism of covering spaces and covering the ground. And we play in a very aggressive way against the ball.
“This ultimately sets us up to create a lot of transitional moments.”
Despite the Americans’ good record against England, they have mostly struggled against European teams in the World Cup, winning just once in their last 19 matches. This means that a win on Friday will not only bring the United States closer to the next round, but it will also serve as a notice that this team, like spiders, can be intimidating.
“It’s clearly a huge opportunity to quickly track the impact that can happen,” Adams said. “High pressing, a special moment to get on the field against some of these guys. We respect them.
“And when you get a score in a game like this, you know, people start to respect Americans a little bit more.”