A matchup that’s been circled on calendars for months now, England and the United States will finally face off in what could be a Black Friday for the ages.
The United States men’s national team has been kicking itself after gifting Wales a 1-1 draw in its opening match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The Americans opened the match with arguably their best 45 minutes under Gregg Berhalter, only for a late penalty kick to bring the young team down to Earth and send it home with just one point.
For the U.S., the focus now turns to November 25, where a record television audience will await as the USMNT does battle with England.
The Three Lions are coming off a dominant 6-2 victory against an overwhelmed Iran side, yet for all the team’s offensive firepower, manager Gareth Southgate was critical of his defense, particularly for conceding a stoppage time goal.
And while England has a nice cushion atop the group, the stakes are still high for the nation, who in addition to bragging rights over its former colony, could clinch a spot in the group stage with a victory.
Needless to say, there is a lot on the line for Berhalter’s Americans as well. A loss to England would be a huge blow to the team’s hopes to make it out of the group, as it would need outside help to advance should they walk out of Friday’s match without a result.
So, who’s under more pressure, the U.S. or England? We breakdown what to expect on Black Friday.
USMNT’s Glaring Questions
Am on my second rewatch and the second-half decision making is killing me.
This pass… did not get hit. pic.twitter.com/4H9IJTLCOg
— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) November 22, 2022
The draw with Wales produced some fluid and attacking soccer, but what it did not do was provide the USMNT with clear cut chances. In the end it was Timothy Weah who scored the team’s only goal in the match and that was basically it for the U.S. in the game.
Berhalter also saw a lot of his main pieces wilt as the match progressed, having to sub off his main midfield cogs Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah. In addition to Sergino Dest, who is also fresh off an injury, McKennie and Musah play irreplaceable roles, and would need to be in the lineup for a must-win game against Iran. Does Berhalter risk exacerbating the bumps and bruises in key players or will he play it safe and save them for the final group stage match?
Then there is the question of striker. The USMNT has very little scoring threats at the striker position and seeing Weah finish off his chance smoothly gives the coach another unexpected option — the possibility of moving Weah to the No. 9 position and introducing Gio Reyna, who didn’t feature in the Wales opener, into the lineup.
England Sitting Pretty
England enters its match against the United States knowing just a 1-0 win will place it into the second round. It will be hard to believe that the English side will take the Americans lightly however. The 2010 1-1 draw with the Americans is still fresh in the minds of many, and we should expect Southgate’s side to play at full throttle and look for a convincing victory.
Who Has More Riding on the Game?
The stakes are high for the USMNT, who without the luxury of three points from Wales will need to try and get something out of England. The game is being used as a promotional tool for soccer in the U.S., with the largest World Cup television audience expected to tune in.
The USMNT will have to play a bit more compact than it did against Wales and hope to catch England on the counter. The key for the team’s success will be their defensive line that when tested look shaky against Wales. Center backs Tim Ream and Walker Zimmerman will have to play the games of their lives in order to keep the U.S. in the game.
While a loss would not completely doom the USMNT, it would hit its hopes of advancement very hard. In addition to a win over Iran, the U.S. would need Wales to lose or draw both of its next matches to avoid a goal differential decision should it lose to England. A victory would not only make things much simpler in terms of group advancement, but it would ignite perhaps the strongest influx of fan banter on social media. Prepare yourself for unoriginal Revolutionary War and “It’s called soccer!” jokes should the USMNT pull off an upset.
For England, a loss wouldn’t be nearly as devastating to its tournament hopes as it would be to its ego, as the country would not only be hearing it from USMNT zealots on Twitter but also from its notoriously harsh tabloid headlines. The Three Lions are simply playing for national pride, and to maintain the tradition of proper football heritage. But no pressure though.