The meeting between England and the United States on Friday was one of the most anticipated matchups of the group stage in this year’s World Cup, and although it did not deliver in terms of goals, it was a very entertaining and interesting battle. Many had expected a convincing English victory, especially considering the Three Lion’s demolition of Iran and the US’ second half slump against Wales during the first round of fixtures. However, the United States rose to the occasion, outshooting England 10 to 8 and winning 7 corners to England’s 3. The best chances for the Yanks came through Christian Pulisic, who clattered the bar with a left-footed strike, and Weston McKennie, who sailed what would be the highest xG chance up into the crowd in the first half.
England captain Harry Kane was sure to score in the 10th minute but a crucial intervention by Walker Zimmerman saw the Tottenham talisman’s shot blocked for a corner instead. Mason Mount had a decent opportunity in first half stoppage time, but Arsenal’s Matt Turner was equal to it. England’s best chance, however, came with essentially the last kick of the game when Luke Shaw’s gorgeous free-kick delivery was met by a diving Kane, but his headed effort flew just wide.
Americans are understandably encouraged by this result; not many predicted them to come out of this fixture with a positive result. They showed they can hang with one of the tournament favorites, and tactically they looked fantastic. The USMNT’s biggest strength is the midfield, and that was very evident throughout the course of the 90 minutes. McKennie, Musah, and most of all Tyler Adams were spectacular in this game and outplayed England’s €255m midfield (according to Transfermarkt) of Rice, Bellingham, and Mount. Pulisic and Weah looked lively going forward, but Haji Wright was relatively uninvolved. Obviously, one goal scored through two games is not great, but the Americans have many reasons to be happy with this result.
On the other hand, the reaction from England fans has been one of frustration and outrage. I’ve seen many calling for Southgate’s head due to the rather negative playing style and the fact that England were seemingly content with a point. Although I agree that England did not play anywhere near as well as I was expecting, I believe that calls to sack Southgate mid-tournament are moronic. France did not get 9 points in the group in 2018, and neither did Germany in 2014, Spain in 2010, Italy in 2006, and so on and so forth. Spencer Own, aka Spencer FC, very astutely pointed out that Gareth Southgate has only lost one tournament game in 90 minutes with England, and that was when they fielded their “B team” against Belgium in the last iteration of the World Cup. He also stated that England fans who are outraged with the result are showing their entitlement. England have not won a World Cup in 56 years, and so expecting them to win every single game in the group and trot straight to the final is quite simply unrealistic. As it stands, Gareth Southgate certainly gives England the best chance of winning.
So, where does this leave Group B? Well, with that point, both the United States and England have made their path to qualification for the Round of 16 a little bit easier. England now must only avoid losing by 4 or more goals against Wales in order to go through. After Wales’ late loss to Iran, the United States must simply beat Iran to go through, irregardless of the other match’s result. Both of those results seem very achievable for these two teams, and so I still believe that England will finish first in the group and the United States will finish second when the dust settles on Tuesday.