DOHA, Qatar (AP) – 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 are a top-flight nation with a lot of top-flight players who have played in the Premier League and who we have played against,” 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, a focus for 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 remaining – but the fate of Lionel Messi and Argentina is proof 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 a number of years.”
“I think the message is, if you have a team that cares about the same message, you can beat anyone, any day.”
If the USA are to pull off the competition’s latest upset, they must stem an England attack that was reckless in the match against Iran, in which Bukayo Saka scored twice.
“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.”
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James Robson can be found at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson