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A share of the points ultimately suited England and the United States quite nicely in their second group stage game of the World Cup, both sides playing out a 0-0 draw where the Americans were vastly more impressive than their opponents.
Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie both went closest in an impressive first half for the USMNT, whose pressing in a rejigged 4-4-2 system proved hugely effective at quelling the attacking thrust of an opponent who had scored six goals in their opener. England created few convincing chances, Mason Mount drawing a smart save from Matt Turner in the first half and Harry Kane flicking a free kick wide in added time.
Ultimately the draw means England need only to avoid a four goal defeat against Wales to reach the last 16 with victory guaranteeing them top spot in Group B. The United States’ fate is in their hands too though they must beat Iran in the final group game to qualify.
The state of the group might have been rather different if Iran’s clash with Wales had ended before the 97th minute. A game that looked to be headed for the tournament’s fifth 0-0 draw, bursting to life in the last 20 minutes with a red card to Wales keeper Wayne Hennessey. That was followed by late goals from Rouzbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian that sent Iran from bottom in Group B to second place.
After that, Senegal’s win against Qatar sent the hosts on their way towards elimination from the tournament. The Netherlands and Ecuador battled for top place in Group A. The two sides fought to a well-earned draw over the 90 minutes with Cody Gakpo aiding the Dutch with an early goal in the first half. Enner Valencia scored the equalizer for Ecuador and the goal was his third of the tournament. The two teams are now level in the group with four points each with one game remaining in the group stage.
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Friday, Nov. 25
Wales 0, Iran 2
Senegal 3, Qatar 1
Netherlands 1, Ecuador 1
England 0, United States 0
England have a late corner. Trippier’s delivery has been a little off so far but he has plenty to aim at here. Maguire meets it but couldn’t get a run on the ball, his header bouncing down into the ground. Turner claims it. Could that be that?
In spite of changes from both managers this game seems to be petering out somewhat, understandable when a draw leaves both teams in control of their fate. If this holds a win would take the US through whilst England would feel rather confident that goal difference would keep them in top spot if they only drew with Wales. Let’s see if either side go for the jugular in the final six minutes plus added time.
As was the case at the Euros, Grealish is proving to be a real X-factor off the bench for England. His every touch commits at least one American defender, often more, and suddenly a rearguard that had looked so solid is scrambling. There’s still the likes of Foden and Rashford to come. This could be where England win the game.
Suddenly the sterile possession of a few minutes ago looks like a distant dream as the US work the ball around, earning set pieces whenever they want. If it were not for Maguire’s strength in the air Zimmerman would almost certainly have headed the US into the lead.
Meanwhile there is no sign of a change from Southgate, who has four Manchester City players and a Champions League winning captain among his options on the bench. This has been the consistent criticism of the England manager, that he lets games drift for too long. Something has to give.
This has settled back into the temp with which it began, England seeing lots of the ball but failing to find much movement between the lines. You could see frustration from Stones when he had the ball at his feet that no one was really showing to get it to feet. Maybe the Three Lions are tired, maybe shellshocked, but this is not going to plan.
No changes from either side at half time. Bellingham lose out in midfield on halfway, leaving space for the Americans to drive into. Musah has space to pick a pass and finds Robinson but his cross is cut out by Rice.
McKennie could have swung this game dramatically had he finished this chance.
Oh my 😳
What a CHANCE for Weston McKennie pic.twitter.com/uRMhyV5MVw
Berhalter may be quite pleased to hear the referee’s whistle because those last few minutes just saw England establish themselves a little more, ending in an excellent save by Turner off Mount a few moments after Shaw’s cutback had found Saka to clip wide. The chances were there for the US but it almost feels like Canada’s display against Belgium, where the North American side caught their big name European opponent dozing and failed to punish them.
Where the US have really impressed off the ball, England seem a step late to their man every time. The front three in particular are all too easily bypassed, not entirely sure whether to get at these American full backs or place themselves in the right spot if possession is won back later in the move.
This is really encouraging from Berhalter’s side, who are starting to build possession play and have England a bit unsure over who’s defending who. Musah in particular has the beating of this England midfield, picking the ball up on the half turn and driving forward. It feels like something is coming for the USMNT and it eventually does as a Pulisic shot cracks back off the bar.
Good build up down the right ends with Wright putting a really nice cross into the area around the penalty spot. Trippier has lost McKennie but the Juventus midfielder blazes over. He absolutely should have scored there.
Of the few touches the USMNT’s No.10 has got so far an awful lot of them have come in the position where he is creating for others, looking to slip team mates into space rather than attacking it himself. Anyone who has seen Pulisic’s best moments at Chelsea might be asking why he isn’t the player getting the passes. In the Premier League he has developed a useful niche as a penalty box shot sniffer, here he isn’t getting anywhere near those positions.
The change to Haji Wright makes more sense now that it becomes clear that the US will spend a lot of time, particularly without the ball, in a 4-4-2 that is designed to slow English progression into midfield. It starts well in the opening 10 minutes, where Maguire and Stones really can’t do much more than work it from side to side. But Declan Rice is starting to make a more deliberate attempt to find pockets that offer his team mates that outlet and in truth England don’t really look that threatened by this press. Eventually they work the ball up the field down the right, cut back for Kane to strike low at goal. You suspect it’s goal bound but Zimmerman makes a good block.
England take the knee before Mason Mount gets the ball rolling. John Stones and Harry Maguire roll the ball around the back, not seeming too perturbed by the US press. They go long but the ball rolls through to Matt Turner, who nervously hoofs the ball into the stands.
For England it’s all quite straight forward, win and they are guaranteed to go through and are well placed to top the group with Iran needing a major goal difference swing to draw them back in.
For the US a victory today means they need to only draw with Iran. A point would mean they have to beat Team Melli in the final round. If they lose they can still go through by beating Iran but would be reliant on England doing them a favor against Wales. On the basis of the Welsh display today they can be pretty confident of getting that helping hand.
Yunus Musah will be lining up for the USA tonight but he could so easily have been in the setup of their opposition. Indeed Musah, born in New York but eligible for Italy and England, even played in the Three Lions youth setup as well alongside Jude Bellingham. At Arsenal his team mates included Bukayo Saka.
Losing Musah to the USMNT is something of a sore point to England boss Gareth Southgate, who said before today’s game: “Firstly, they are very proactive on recruitment. They took one of ours which we were not very happy about but fair play. Yunus was in our Under-19s and then we went into lockdown.
“He was a player at that stage I had not had a lot of contact with and the decision was made before I had the chance to get to know him well.”
There’s just one change across both sides today as Gregg Berhalter brings Haji Wright in for Josh Sargent to lead the American line. It’s no wonder that England are going for what has worked so far.
England XI: Pickford; Trippier, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Bellingham, Mount; Saka, Kane, Sterling
USA XI: Turner; Dest, Zimmerman, Ream, Robinson; Adams, Musah, McKennie; Weah, Wright, Pulisic
Dread it. Run from it. England vs. USA still arrives. How are your nerves folks?
Split points in this one between the two teams. Both with four points in Group A and level on goal differential. The final matchday of group play will be massive.
Late game scenes here as Enner Valencia goes down on the pitch. He gets a bit of treatment before being carried off the field. Appears to be some discomfort in his right leg. There will be six minutes of stoppage time.
Ecuador taking their time on when to press a bit as the game approaches the 70th minute. Netherlands content to play a more methodical game at the moment. Middle third is quite clogged as both teams are vying for possession.
60′ Ecuador combining in the final third, the ball gets recycled around and lands to Plata. His shot targets the upper left corner of the goal, but the shot is off the post! The Netherlands have had no answers to start this half despite subbing on Memphis Depay into the game.
49′ It’s Valencia with the equalizer for Ecuador! Estupiñán gets on the ball and runs into the box. His initial shot is stopped, but Valencia is there on a central run to make sure the ball gets into the back of the net. What a goal for Valencia. Just minutes into the second half and his third of the tournament! 1-1 in the second half.
ENNER EQUALIZES FOR ECUADOR 🇪🇨 pic.twitter.com/ocAAOWqsBZ
Gakpo provides the opening goal in the 6th minute of the game to give Netherlands a narrow lead at the half. Ecuador played themselves back into the game and had a good chance to off a corner kick to equalize, but the goal is disallowed after being ruled offside.
45+3′ Ecuador breakthrough off a corner kick with a deflected shot by Estupinan that sneaks in near post. The goal is disallowed though after an offside call. A delightful moment quickly deflated as the two sides head into the locker rooms for half-time.
45+2′ Ecuador with a dangerous free kick and they target Valencia. A long lofty ball and the forward gets contact on it, but its deflected out for a corner.
33′ Enner Valencia with some time and space in the final third. He decided to take the chance from distance and it nearly pays off with ball drifting just wide of the near post.
The Dutch retain possession and are quick to get into the opposite direction. Some physical play leads to a corner kick opportunity but it is defended away by Ecuador. The game is seeing some more pushing and shoving as it ticks past the half hour mark now.
Ecuador building off a counterattack, Enner Valencia gets nearly end line inside the box before sending a ball through. The team earned two consecutive corners but are unable to capitalize on the time in dangerous spaces.
Ecuador taking more chances and looking to intercept passes to go direct more centrally. They are spending time in the Netherlands half and have begun to string some more combinations in the final third, keeping the Netherlands defense honest as the game approaches 25 minutes.
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