Confidence in the England camp couldn’t be higher after their six-goal showing against Iran on matchday one and the rampant Three Lions will be determined to bare their teeth again when they meet USA at the Al Bayt Stadium this evening.
Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT came out of the traps quickly in their Group B opener against Wales on Monday before their energy and enthusiasm burned off after the interval, and another half-cooked performance later could see them eaten alive by the Three Lions.
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Harry Kane was at the centre of an injury scare when he picked up an ankle complaint against Iran, however, following a scan and some clean results, England’s captain resumed training and will spearhead the attack again today.
Gareth Southgate is unlikely to rock the boat following England’s superb 6-2 win over Iran on matchday one, so expect the same XI to take the field against the USA. Harry Maguire is in line to win his 50th cap this evening having shaken off an illness.
A lot of guesswork went into determining USA’s possible starting XI before their draw with Wales, but now we have a better idea about how the Stars and Stripes are likely to line-up against England.
Tim Ream and Walker Zimmerman should be paired again at centre-half, however, Ream is listed among four American players walking a suspension tightrope alongside Sergino Dest, Weston McKennie and Kellyn Acosta.
Timothy Weah finished off a flowing move to notch against Wales on Monday and the 22-year-old could be one to watch again today.
England were ruthless against a series of sub-standard opponents during their successful World Cup qualification surge, netting an unmatched 39 times in the UEFA region and the Three Lions’ demolition job on Iran on Monday again highlighted their ability to stick the boot in on lower-ranked teams.
Gareth Southgate’s clinical England managed to score six times from just seven efforts on target in their World Cup opener. Iran picked up two cautions on Monday, which helped to keep England’s overall card against per 90 figures high, though Team Melli might have collected even more had referee Raphael Claus not been lenient on occasion.
The USA could never be described as prolific under the instruction of Gregg Berhalter and despite some neat approach play against Wales on Monday, their killer instinct was generally absent when it mattered and they couldn’t add to their opening goal.
The Americans were the second-highest scorers in the CONCACAF region behind Canada, though they still only registered at a rate of 1.5 times per 90 minutes, which hints that their inability to turn chances into goals has hampered them for a while.
The US clocked just six attempts in total against Wales, which falls well short of their qualification figures, though their shots (seven) and corners against (three) tallies against the Dragons were more or less in line with their longer-term stats.
Player Shots and Shots on Target
Harry Kane was head and shoulders above his teammates in the shots and shots on target metrics during England’s qualifiers, however, the Tottenham star collapsed coupons everywhere when he failed to muster even a single attempt against Iran on Monday.
That was really just one of the strange little peculiarities that football likes to throw at us now and again however, and Kane should have his shooting boots back on today.
Bukayo Saka (2.91 shots p/90) did manage to rack up three pretty impactful efforts on the Iranian goal – as did Harry Maguire – whose presence from set plays continues to be considerable. Maguire is England’s king of first contacts and he could be a decent longer-price option again this evening.
Christian Pulisic (2.65 shots per 90) and Timothy Weah (2.60) ranked numbers one and two for USA during their qualification campaign and both attackers managed to get shots away against Wales on Monday.
Six different American players let loose with a single effort each against and the Dragons and strong qualification performers, Brenden Aaronsen and Weston McKennie were among those to let fly.
Interestingly, all but one of the USA’s shots against Wales were lodged by players clustered near the right side of the pitch, which suggests England left-back Luke Shaw might need some assistance today.
Player Goals and Assists
Harry Kane bagged a phenomenal 12 goals in eight World Cup qualification appearances, and though the 29-year-old failed to add his name to the lengthy list of scorers against Iran on matchday one, he did lay on goals for two of his teammates.
In-demand Wonderkid Jude Bellingham scored his first goal for England after 35 minutes on Monday, while Bukayo Saka confirmed his rising star status with a well-taken brace.
Harry Maguire, Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish provided four goal contributions between them, showcasing England’s ability to hurt teams from all over the pitch and from the bench.
Timothy Weah’s fine finish against Wales on Monday was only his second competitive strike and fourth goal overall for the USA since his debut in 2018. Christian Pulisic played Weah in with a perfectly weighted pass to keep his goal contribution figures ticking over.
Antonee Robinson was the leading assist maker for USA during their qualification fixtures, though the Fulham wing-back couldn’t find the right delivery against Wales despite attempting six crosses.
England enjoyed a colossal 78% possession against Iran on matchday one and while they probably won’t be quite as dominant against USA, they will expect to do the majority of their defending on the counter attack again.
No Three Lions players were carded on Monday, though Mason Mount, John Stones and Bukayo Saka all committed two fouls each, and the first two of those along with Luke Shaw look like passable card candidates today.
Stones and Shaw should face a slightly stiffer test of their defensive acumen than they did against Iran, while Mount could be mixing it with some combative opponents in midfield.
Christian Pulisic was the USA’s most-hacked at player during their qualifiers, which shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given his high-profile status. His Welsh marker, Chris Mepham, was booked for hauling the attacker back on Monday and Pulisic will hope to make John Stones just as uncomfortable today.
In midfield, Yunus Mensah (fouled 1.99 times p/90) will hope to get under Mason Mount’s skin, while goal-scoring hero Timothy Weah has the speed to haunt Luke Shaw’s peripheral vision down what could be a busy English left-flank.
Match-Ups to watch
John Stones vs Christian Pulisic
Mason Mount vs Yunus Mensah
Luke Shaw vs Timothy Weah
Weston McKennie was carded for an industrial challenge against Wales on Monday and though the Juventus midfield is now on the verge of a suspension that would see him banned for the USA’s meeting with Iran, I don’t expect him to take the edge off his tackles today.
Sergino Dest was also cautioned after just 11 minutes against the Dragons, and the timing of the booking suggests his feathers can be ruffled early on.
On the opposite flank, Antonee Robinson avoided the book despite committing two fouls against Wales. However, the 25-year-old was carded when he last faced Bukayo Saka in Fulham’s clash with Arsenal in August. That pair will renew acquaintances this evening.
Bukayo Saka is certain to be a heavily-marked man this evening following his two-goal showing against Iran and Antonee Robinson has already struggled to contain the Three Lions and Gunners winger once this year at club level.
Raheem Sterling tends to draw just as many ill-timed challenges on the opposite flank and the 27-year-old could prove a real handful for the nervous American right-back, Dest.
Jude Bellingham doesn’t appear on our list, though the teenage sensation ran the show for England against Iran and Weston McKennie will be determined to upset his rhythm this evening. McKennie committed four fouls against Wales and a similar count today would draw another caution.
Match-Ups to watch
Antonee Robinson vs Bukayo Saka
Sergino Dest vs Raheem Sterling
Weston McKennie vs Jude Bellingham