England eyes place in last 16, but stubborn USA side stands in their way
Off the back of an emphatic victory in their opening 2022 World Cup fixture, England will endeavour to boost their hopes of securing the top spot in Group B when they lock horns with the USA at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor on Friday evening.
The Three Lions began their campaign by hitting Iran for six on Monday, while the Stars and Stripes were forced to share the spoils with Wales in their opening clash.
Following memorable highs of reaching the World Cup semi-finals four years ago and then the final of Euro 2020, optimism surrounding Gareth Southgate’s squad had dipped heading to Qatar after a disappointing winless UEFA Nations League campaign. However, the nation’s hopes were boosted in emphatic style as the Three Lions roared to a 6-2 victory in their opening group game against Iran, their biggest ever win in the first match of a major tournament.
Bukayo Saka scored either side of strikes from Jude Bellingham and Raheem Sterling in a dominant first-half showing, before substitutes Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish got their names on the scoresheet after the break.
Southgate took plenty of positives from his side’s performance in a contest which saw nearly half an hour of stoppage time across the two halves, but he was left “fed up” after Porto’s Mehdi Taremi netted two consolation goals for Iran.
Indeed, the England boss has called for his players to improve their focus against a “full-throttle” USA outfit on Friday. After claiming maximum points against Iran, England will look to win their opening two group matches at the World Cup for the fourth time when they face the USA, having previously done so in 1982, 2006 and 2018.
Their second fixture at the last World Cup saw Southgate and co cruise to a 6-1 victory against Panama, who missed out on a place in Qatar after finishing behind USA in CONCACAF qualifying. England have won eight of their 11 meetings with USA across all competitions, scoring 39 goals in the process, and they will be keen to increase this tally to nine on Friday as they bid to move one step closer to the last 16.
After missing out on the 2018 World Cup, USA began their campaign in Qatar with a 1-1 draw against Wales on Monday, in a game they were leading until a certain Los Angeles FC star restored parity.