A vibrant United States side beat England in their World Cup battle in Group B, but suffered a wave of missed opportunities as they settled for a 0-0 draw at Al Bayt Stadium on Friday.
England, unchanged from Monday’s 6-2 victory over Iran, could have sealed their place in the knockout phase with a win, but were careless in possession and often struggled. The youthful American side, brimming with speed and skill, kept England trailing for much of the match.
The Three Lions, famously beaten by the USA in the 1950 World Cup, only got a shot on target in the second half in the 87th minute, with only three shots on target in the entire game.
“It certainly wasn’t our best performance,” England captain Harry Kane told ITV Sport after the game.
“It was a stark contrast to the game against Iran. We had two or three chances and we didn’t give them away. They pressed very well. We knew before the game that they would come out and give us a hard time.
“We know we can play better than that… no game is easy in a World Cup. We played against a well-organized team with some good players and you have to respect that.”
The USA were more brutal than in the 1-1 draw with Wales and dominated in the first half. Haji Wright, the only new name in the starting line-up, headed wide before Weston McKennie shot over and Christian Pulisic rattled the woodwork.
Kane had an early try blocked and Mason Mount had saved England’s best chance in the first half.
The US fell back in the second half and defended as a unit when needed, leaving little room for England to work with.
“Anytime you can get shutout in the World Cup, it’s a good thing,” said US coach Gregg Berhalter. “We know that five points will take us in. We have to concentrate on the five points.”
Even with this result, England – now on four points – will qualify for the Round of 16 unless Wales beat them by four or more when they face each other next Tuesday.
The fate of the US, currently on two counts, is now somewhat beyond their control; a victory for the Stars and Stripes against Iran, coupled with England holding on to their unbeaten run against Wales, will see the Americans through the knockout stage.
Other combinations of results quickly become complicated, which means that target differences can be decisive. Iran and the US have only played in a World Cup once before – a 2-1 victory for Iran in 1998.
With a lack of pace on Friday night from the starting eleven who had been so decisive against Iran in their opening game, England coach Gareth Southgate brought in winger Jack Grealish and replaced Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham, whose expected fire never seemed to spark, with defensive midfielder Jordan Henderson.
England had more possession as the game progressed in the last quarter, but struggled to convert this into decent chances. Captain Harry Kane headed wide, while Marcus Rashford’s introduction didn’t help either. At the final whistle, some England fans heard jeers.