England close in on World Cup last 16 after 0-0 draw with USA
A vibrant United States side outplayed England in their World Cup Group B battle but were left to rue a flurry of missed chances as they were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw at the Al Bayt Stadium on Friday.
England, unchanged from Monday’s 6-2 win over Iran, could have sealed their place in the knockout phase with a win but were careless in possession and struggled frequently. The youthful American side, full of pace and skill, kept England on the back foot for much of the game.
The Three Lions, famously defeated by the US at the 1950 World Cup, didn’t manage a shot on goal in the second half until the 87th minute, with only three shots on goal in the whole match.
“It wasn’t our best performance for sure,” England captain Harry Kane told ITV Sport after the match.
“It was a complete contrast with the game against Iran. We had two or three opportunities, and we didn’t put it away. They pressed really well. We knew before the game they would come out and make it difficult for us.
“We know we can play better than that … no game is easy in a World Cup. We were playing against a really organised team with some quality players and you have to respect that.”
The US were bolder than in the 1-1 draw with Wales and dominated in the first half. Haji Wright, the only new name in the starting line-up, headed wide before Weston McKennie fired over and Christian Pulisic rattled the woodwork.
Kane had one early effort blocked and Mason Mount had England’s best first-half chance saved.
The US dropped back in the second half and defended as a unit when needed, giving England little room to work with.
“Every time you can get a shut out in the World Cup it is a good thing,” said US coach Gregg Berhalter. “We know five points gets us in. We have to concentrate on the five points.”
Even with this result, England – now on four points – will qualify for the Round of 16, unless Wales beat them by four or more goals when they face off next Tuesday.
The fate of the USA, currently on two points, is now somewhat out of their control; a win for the Stars and Stripes against Iran, combined with England maintaining their unbeaten run against Wales, will see the Americans through to the knockout stages.
Other combinations of results get complicated quickly, meaning that goal differences could prove decisive. Iran and the USA have only played once before in a World Cup – a 2-1 victory for Iran in 1998.
With tempo lacking on Friday night from the starting eleven who had performed so decisively against Iran in their opening match, England coach Gareth Southgate put on winger Jack Grealish, and replaced Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham, whose anticipated fire never seemed to spark, with defensive midfielder Jordan Henderson.
England had more possession as the game progressed into the final quarter, but struggled to convert this into decent chances. Captain Harry Kane headed wide, while the introduction of Marcus Rashford also failed to help. Some England fans were heard booing at the final whistle.