AL KHOR, Qatar -- The United States and England played to a 0-0 draw in their Group B encounter at the 2022 World Cup on Friday, leaving both sides with work to do in order to advance to the round of 16.
The USA were the better side in a game lacking in clear-cut chances. The closest threat came when Christian Pulisic rattled the crossbar with a ferocious effort midway through the first half, but neither side was able to break the deadlock. The chances that were there in the first half dried up in the second, leaving both sides walking away with a point each.
Both teams are back in action Tuesday (USA vs. Iran, England vs. Wales) as all teams remain alive to move on to the knockout stages.
1. USA plagued by poor finishing, but defense stands tall
In a match that many expected the USA to lose, the Americans performed credibly. The defense was solid, doing plenty to nullify England's midfield. While the Three Lions held the possession edge 58-42%, the US had enough solid spells to mean the game wasn't one-way traffic.
The United States even managed to carve out an edge in expected goals (0.88-0.55), but a lack of precision in front of goal -- again -- as well as some stellar defending, meant that the game ended goalless.
Iran's 2-0 win over Wales earlier in the day left US manager Gregg Berhalter's side in an odd position. Should the USA push for the win or save themselves for the group stage finale against Iran? Berhalter made his intentions clear, making just one change to his starting lineup, with striker Haji Wright replacing Joshua Sargent up top.
England were first to settle, with center back Walker Zimmerman providing a vital block on a Harry Kane shot in the 10th minute. But the USA grew into the game, and thanks to some incisive flank play from Sergino Dest, began carving out chances.
A great opportunity came in the 26th minute when Timothy Weah found Weston McKennie in the box, but the midfielder's first-time effort was blazed over the bar. It wasn't the last time the US would come close. Pulisic rattled the bar in the 33rd minute, and his glancing header from a Dest cross just before halftime went just wide.
The second half saw more huffing and puffing from the USA, as several times Pulisic found space in transition, and while it forced a few corner kick opportunities, Jordan Pickford wasn't really tested in the England goal. England, meanwhile, began to enjoy more extended periods of possession but could do little to really threaten keeper Matt Turner on the other side of the pitch.
This was thanks to a defensive effort by the US that was outstanding. Whatever hangover Walker Zimmerman might have been suffering after conceding the penalty in the Wales match wasn't at all evident on this night. Tim Ream was outstanding again, as was Tyler Adams in the American midfield.
The inability of the US to convert the chances they created was a carryover from the Wales game, and at least so far has come to define this World Cup for the Americans. It's the kind of trend that they'll need to correct in order to advance.
2. England underwhelm but remain in strong spot
Expectations were certainly raised when England obliterated Iran 6-2 in their opener earlier this week, and probably too high. The US were organized and tenacious in defense, and England center-backs Harry Maguire and John Stones seemed oddly passive in terms of trying to find line-breaking passes.
The Three Lions did threaten late in the first half when Mason Mount's shot forced a sharp save from Turner, but overall, England found the going difficult. That said, the cushion the Three Lions created from the first match meant they could invite the US to move forward and in turn not take too many risks.
But it all resulted in a rather tepid performance from England. The much-heralded attacking trident of Mount, Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka was kept rather quiet aside from Mount's aforementioned attempt. The central duo of Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice saw plenty of the ball but wasn't all that effective in spurring the attack.
Manager Gareth Southgate tried to shake things up by bringing on Jack Grealish and Jordan Henderson for Sterling and Bellingham, respectively, but it didn't result in an uptick in England's fortunes. That is, until Kane had a glorious chance in stoppage time, but he could only head Luke Shaw's free kick wide.
This match will certainly not make it on too many England highlight reels. Yet England still top the group with four points, and will face a Wales side that looked dead on their feet in the last minutes of the Iran match. One would expect
Mark Ogden says Phil Foden has to start vs. Wales after having zero playing time against the USMNT.
3. For the USA, Iran game all that matters now
As much as the USA might have gained some respect in this match, it could also be viewed as another missed opportunity for the squad, which now finds itself in a must-win game against Iran in order to progress to the knockout rounds.
On the one hand, that it is coming down to the last game fit with pre-tournament predictions, and to a degree the USA controls their own destiny. But there is precious little wiggle room. The situation also highlights that there were points to be taken in the Americans' first two World Cup matches, and they didn't take advantage. Had they done so, the pressure facing them wouldn't be quite so intense.
It's a scenario somewhat reminiscent of 2010, when the USA needed a win against Algeria and ended up getting it thanks to Landon Donovan's now famous winner.
But in Iran, the USA are now facing a very different kind of opponent. The political overtones accompanying the match will be massive, meaning motivation won't be an issue. Buoyed by what should be a crowd in their favor against the USA, Iran will also be riding a huge wave of confidence after netting a pair of late goals to beat Wales.
Can the USA get the job done? It's certainly possible. The talent is clearly there. But teamwide, the level of sharpness in the attacking half hasn't been high enough. That will need to be raised if this team wants to keep advancing.
England: Pickford 6, Shaw 6, Maguire 7, Stones 5, Trippier 5, Rice 6, Bellingham 5, Sterling 4, Mount 5, Saka 5, Kane 5.
Subs: Grealish 5, Henderson 6, Rashford 5
USA: Turner 7, Robinson 5, Ream 7, Zimmerman 7, Dest 6, Musah 6, Adams 7, McKennie 7, Pulisic 6, Wright 5, Weah 6.
Subs: Aaronson 5, Moore 5, Sargent 5, Reyna 5
Best and worst performers
BEST: Tyler Adams, United States.
Once again, Adams did a little bit of everything, but at a high level, breaking up plays and connecting his passes at a steady clip.
WORST: Raheem Sterling, England.
At no time did Sterling look like he was going to impose himself on the game. Just a really subdued performance overall.
Highlights and notable moments
Christian Pulisic's shot in the 33rd minute off the post was the best chance out of several for the USA.
WHAT A SHOT by Pulisic!!!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 25, 2022
The USMNT was this close to taking the lead! pic.twitter.com/HTAs0gyshf
Here, Weston McKennie's pass into the middle found Tyler Adams, who slid it wide left for Pulisic. His shot beat Jordan Pickford but couldn't get beyond the woodwork.
After the match: What the players and managers said
USA manager Gregg Berhalter, to Fox: "I think both teams worked hard, both teams gave each other difficulties at times and all in all pleased with the effort. Anytime you can get a shutout at the World Cup, it's a good thing."
Berhalter on what must improve: "I'd like to see goals -- on set pieces. We're proud but our work's not done. We have to win on Tuesday and we know five points gets us in. We have to focus on the five points."
England defender Harry Maguire, to ITV: "Wasn't our best -- it's a point and puts us in a strong position in the group. They're a good team that play at high tempo. We had to work hard and we could've nicked it at the end."
England forward Harry Kane, to ITV: "Being clinical, complete contrast to Iran. We had two or three opportunities and didn't put it away. We were playing a tough team and we move on."
USA forward Christian Pulisic, to Fox: "I think there was definitely a lot of positives. We had stretches, even in the first half, where we looked dominant and created some chances; unfortunately, couldn't finish some of them off. But we managed the game quite well, and to come away with a draw against them is obviously a pretty good result, but we felt that we could have even won the game."
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
- The United States are still looking for a win at the World Cup over a squad that has previously lifted it: five losses and now three draws over teams with stars on their jersey.
- England are looking for that first win over the USA on the big stage, as they now have one loss and two draws against the Americans.
- The last team to keep England in single-digit shots in a World Cup game was another CONCACAF nation. Costa Rica also minimized England's attack in 2014 in a 0-0 draw (eight shots).
England: Finish out the group stage against Gareth Bale and Wales on Tuesday. England still have work to do to reach the round of 16 -- the Three Lions need to beat or draw their neighbors. A loss would complicated things.
USA: Take on Iran on Tuesday in their group stage finale in what will be hotly contested match. Despite Friday's positive result, the USA need to beat Iran to advance to the round of 16.