England 0–0 United States
by Dom Smith
It’s okay: one day you’ll no longer remember anything about this lifeless match. Gareth Southgate insisted there was no risk of his England team underestimating his friend Gregg Berhalter’s US team ahead of their meeting at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor. But the early stages here mirrored the opening moments of their 1–1 draw with Wales on Monday. Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah had the beating of England’s midfield three in a first half in which England were stodgy and the States in control. It scarcely got better from England.
Jude Bellingham, Declan Rice and Mason Mount struggled to contain Berhalter’s energtic trio. McKennie and Adams drove the Americans forward. Watching on back home was the largest-ever American audience for a USMNT match. Today was a national holiday in the States as yesterday was thanksgiving. Soon they were giving thanks to Berhalter, who has done a great job with this team.
His side tapped into the success of the amateur US side that beat England at their first World Cup in 1950. And the industry of Bob Bradley’s side who benefitted from Rob Green’s infamous howler to open their 2010 World Cup campaign with a 1–1 draw with Fabio Capello’s desperately disappointing England. Except here the States fielded players from Chelsea, Arsenal, Juventus and AC Milan. Tangible evidence of progress.
Raheem Sterling crossed for Harry Kane with the match’s first true opening, though Kane’s shot was blocked well by Walker Zimmerman who wasn’t walking but rather hurling himself at the ball. It proved to be a rare opening for England in a first half that threatened to frustrate their momentum after their 6–2 thrashing of Iran, who beat Wales earlier today.Embed from Getty Images
On 26 minutes Musah crossed for McKennie of Juventus to blaze over as the States started to purr, and England were soon under their spell. Musah earned 32 caps for England’s youth sides between 2016 and 2019, but here he was dogged in midfield against his former team. He fired from range with a shot that Rice’s block slowed down for Jordan Pickford to gather.
Then, with the United States queueing up at the edge of a packed England box, Musah played left to Christian Pulisic. The wide forward has become a bit of a laughing stock while at Chelsea, a symbol of the United States’ supposed failure to really become the elite football nation they’ve long threatened to become. But Pulisic raises his game in the colours of his national team. He teed himself up and rattled the crossbar with Pickford flying and well beaten.
Pulisic was unlucky — scoring the opener against the country in which his club football career has stalled would have been a twist of fate of the sweetest kind. But after the crossbar helped Iran’s Mehdi Taremi beat Pickford on Monday, it befriended England this time.
England returned from the dressing room in slighter better nick than in the first half. But they were still so static. All 11 players failed to replicate their performances from the first match and soon England fans were biting their nails, their minds wandering from the dearth of life on the pitch to the wealth of talent on England’s bench. On came Jordan Henderson for 19-year-old Bellingham, whose presence was barely noticeable on a tough day at the office. Jack Grealish replaced Sterling. Could Grealish turn the tide and make it a game of two calves?
Bukayo Saka was England’s rightful man of the match against the Iranians, and when he turned into space midway through the second half there was promise. There always is when he finds even half a yard. But Adams, the Leeds United 23-year-old, followed him all the way and slid in to tackle. If one moment provided a microcosm of this entire encounter, that was it. The US were well up for this, and England were just a little too easily nudged off course.
Kane tried to flick into Mason Mount but the Chelsea midfielder was looking elsewhere and couldn’t latch onto it. It summed England up. They were languid when they were tireless against Iran, and rather than snappy in their passing, Southgate’s players were disjointed and confused.Embed from Getty Images
Substitute Marcus Rashford curled on target as the match grew older, but it favoured Arsenal’s second-choice goalkeeper Matt Turner who caught with ease. Kieran Trippier’s corner approached Harry Maguire in the first minute of four added on. Defensively, Maguire — who earned his 50th cap — had won everything all night. He prevailed in the air again but it bounced into Turner’s path. From Shaw’s excellent free-kick delivery with a minute remaining, Kane climbed highest but headed wide.
Few would have expected it on Monday, but England added to the 0–0 party at this bizarre and all-too-often uninspiring World Cup. They still haven’t beaten the USA in World Cup football. The States deserved their point, their organisation worthy of immense credit. For England, this was the halting of momentum.
It was a result which reminded the viewer of the dour 0–0 draw with Scotland at Euro 2020. England remain in control of this group and will almost certainly reach the last 16, though their ability to rest players for the final group game against Wales is now limited.
England headed into the game having played out more 0–0 draws than any other side in World Cup history with 11. No nation had played more World Cup matches than the US’s 34 without one. And so a goalless draw it was. Naturally. Tuesday’s importance grows.