DOHA, Qatar — England scored six goals in their World Cup opener against Iran, but it was the two conceded that worried coach Gareth Southgate and gave hope to the United States.
“We ended up looking sloppy,” said Southgate of Monday’s 6-2 win over Iran. He also warned that the USA would go “full throttle” in Friday’s Group B game.
The tournament has already produced some shocking results, including Saudi Arabia’s win over Argentina and Japan’s excitement over Germany.
A USA win over England might not be on the same scale as Saudi Arabia, but against one of the tournament favourites, Gregg Berhalter’s side are undeniably the underdog.
The two goals against Iran gave Southgate something to focus on in an otherwise encouraging performance.
His message to the players was clear: they must do better against the USA team, who drew 1-1 with Wales in the first group game.
“They’re a top-flight nation with a lot of top-flight players who’ve played in the Premier League that we’ve encountered,” said England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. “But it’s about us being 100 percent there as a team. It’s about taking the result from Iran and going into the US game positively.”
One of those Premier League players is Chelsea winger Christian Pulisic, who is at the heart of England’s defence.
“He’s good with both feet, very clinical,” Pickford said. “We must be careful of him.”
A win for England would see them qualify for the Round of 16 with one game to go, but the fate of Lionel Messi and Argentina proves that nothing can be taken for granted.
“That’s what World Cup football is about,” Pickford said. “There will be surprises”
US goalkeeper Matt Turner predicts more of them at the World Cup.
“You can see the world of football is leveling off in a lot of ways,” he said. “Teams have game plans. The teams have been investing in their youth academies for several years.
“I think the message is, if you have a team that cares about the same message, you can beat anyone, any day.”
The USA famously beat England 1-0 at the 1950 World Cup and the teams drew 1-1 in 2010.
If the USA are to produce the latest upset of this year’s tournament, they must stem an England attack that was reckless in the game against Iran with two goals from Bukayo Saka.
“I think it’s pretty clear that he’s one of the young stars of world football,” said his Arsenal team-mate Turner. “He’s a top-top player and I don’t have to tell anyone on our team how dangerous he is in the game. He scores goals in many ways. He’s really developed, matured.”