England suffers reality check in 0-0 stalemate with USA
AL KHOR: England suffered a sobering reality check as it was outplayed for long periods by a youthful United States side in a tense 0-0 draw in its second World Cup Group B game on Friday. A 6-2 thrashing of Iran on Monday sent fans’ hopes soaring but Gareth Southgate’s side was fortunate not to suffer a repeat of its 1950 World Cup calamity against the Americans.
It will still qualify for the last 16 if it avoids a heavy defeat by Wales in its final group game, but the team was greeted with ‘boos’ at the final whistle and will need a vast improvement if it wants to have a deep run.
The US produced a high-tempo display but may live to rue not putting away an England side stuck in second gear, although it will reach the last 16 for the fifth time since 1994 if it beats Iran.
“A draw’s not the worst thing, but I felt for stretches of the game we showed dominance,” Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, one of five England-based players in the US starting line-up, said.
He struck the crossbar in a first-half his team dominated while the outstanding Weston McKennie tormented England and spurned a glorious first-half chance. England captain Harry Kane sent a late header wide that would have given England a first World Cup win over the US at the third attempt but it would have been a travesty.
While the result, and performance, was desperately disappointing, England tops the group on four points and remains in the box seat to reach the last 16. “Wasn’t the best performance for sure,” Kane, who remains two behind Wayne Rooney’s England record 53 goals, said.
For the first time in 54 games, England manager Southgate named an unchanged starting line-up but it was unrecognisable to the free-flowing side that had demolished Iran.
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It lacked zip and the sight of teenage midfielder Jude Bellingham, who earned rave reviews against Iran, making no impact and being replaced by veteran Jordan Henderson in the second half just about summed it up. A day after Thanksgiving, there was a carnival atmosphere in tent-like Al Bayt Stadium before kickoff.
The Americans took a while to settle and were fortunate when Kane’s shot from Bukayo Saka’s cross was blocked by Walker Zimmerman and flew just wide.
After that a nimble and smart US side took charge. Haji Wright, the only change to Gregg Berhalter’s line-up from the opening draw with Wales, headed wide and England had a huge let-off when McKennie half-volleyed over.
Juventus’ McKennie, sporting a red, white and blue hairdo, then instigated another move with a surging run before the ball was worked across to Pulisic who crashed an angled left-foot drive against the bar in the 33rd minute.
The chances kept flowing for a slick American side before halftime with Sergino Dest threatening after a weaving run and Pulisic scuffing a header wide.
Result: England 0 drew with USA 0