Dubai: England’s 6-2 thrashing of Iran in their opening Group B match was their biggest-ever win in the first match of a major tournament. As impressive as that might be, I think it was also the worst thing could have happened because now the nation’s expectations have gone through the roof.
Instead of that rout, a hard-fought 1-0 win would have been much better. Now, the pressure is on Gareth Southgate and the boys to put in another attacking display against the United States, who they will face for the first time in 12 years, but this could be dangerous because they are a totally different kettle of fish to the Iranians.
Iran like to sit back and invite teams on to them and try to hit them on the break. This suited England’s game plan as Southgate went with an attacking lineup that was able to get in behind the lines but I feel a more cautious approach will be needed tomorrow at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor because the US are dangerous.
The US were forced to share the spoils against Wales in their opening clash having dominated the match. Timothy Weah fired the Stars and Stripes into a deserved lead but Gregg Berhalter’s side will be disappointed to have conceded a late penalty that Wales talisman Gareth Bale smashed home.
The last time England met the US the match ended in a draw and although Southgate and co head into the fixture in buoyant mood and as favourites to claim maximum points, they will need to be cautious or we could be witnessing yet another huge shock result in the tournament following Saudi Arabia’s win over Argentina and Japan’s over Germany.
The US will have Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah available after they both came off with respective groin and toe injuries in the draw with Wales while skipper Tyler Adams will pull the strings in midfield. The Leeds United player will provide the cover to their centre backs which will again comprise Fulham duo Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson. Another Premier League star, Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, will provide the creative spark for attackers Weah and Joshua Sargent. I was impressed with the team against Wales and they should make The Round of 16 at the very least.
Kane fit to play
England – who have won 8 of their 11 meetings against the US across all competitions – will look to Bukayo Saka, Jude Bellingham and Raheem Sterling to guide them to victory. They will also be boosted by the fact captain Harry Kane has overcome an ankle injury which he picked up against Iran and he will again lead the line. But Southgate will have been annoyed his side conceded two goals in that opener and with the US set to play at full throttle like they did against Wales, it could be a busy evening for Jordan Pickford in goal. We may well see full backs Luke Shaw and Kieron Trippier playing a more subdued role to keep the defence in tact. If they bomb forward like they enjoy doing, the US could find space to exploit in the flanks.
England can secure top spot with another win but if fans of the Three Lions are expecting another goal fest they could be disappointed. I expect this to be a far tighter contest which will be decided by the odd goal.