AL RAYYAN, Qatar — The United States were favorites in their World Cup opening tie against Wales. The Americans are also the bookmakers’ choice to win their group stage final against Iran. But in the monumental Black Friday clash against England (2pm ET, FOX and the FOX Sports App) it’s a different story.
“They’re probably one of the favorites for the world title,” US captain Tyler Adams told FOX Sports of the Three Lions. “We know we’re probably underdogs.”
There’s no probable about it. Americans are far from beating Jude Bellingham, Harry Kane & Co. That’s no secret. It might even be good. After all, it’s long been the role that the USMNT has felt more comfortable in.
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“I think we’ve always been the underdogs in America’s eyes,” said striker Tim Weah, USA’s goalscorer in Monday’s 1-1 draw with Wales. “They kind of wonder if we know how to play football. And I think it’s time to show the world that we’re capable of playing with the best and beating the best.”
To pick up even one point on Friday – let alone all three – would be a triumph for Gregg Berhalter’s team. Perhaps Weah’s optimism betrays the naivety of youth. While the second youngest team in the tournament respect England and know what they’re capable of, the Americans aren’t afraid of them either. That’s not a bad place to start at a World Cup that has already had two monumental upsets in its first 12 games – Saudi Arabia beat Lionel Messi and Argentina on Tuesday, a day before Germany lost to Japan.
“If you have a team that’s bought into the same message,” US goalkeeper Matt Turner told reporters Wednesday, “you can beat anyone, any day.”
The Americans’ all-time 1W-0N-1T World Cup record against England proves Turner’s point, even if it has nothing to do with the current US squad. More relevant is the fact that this USMNT has significantly more playing experience in England than anyone before. Five starters against Wales – Adams, Turner, Christian Pulisic, Tim Ream and Jedi Robinson play in the Premier League. So did Brenden Aaronson, who could spell ailing midfielder Weston McKennie on Friday (a USMNT spokesman said all 26 players, including McKennie, would be available for selection).
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Forward Josh Sargent was in the Prem last season before Norwich were relegated; He is one of the top scorers in the second division English championship this season. New York City-born midfielder Yunus Musah spent his formative years in London, where he was a member of Arsenal’s youth system. Musah was also captain of England U18 before a call from Berhalter convinced him to represent his home nation instead (Musah reiterated on Wednesday that he had never spoken to England manager Gareth Southgate).
“It’s definitely a special game because I’ve played at both sides,” said Musah. The English-born and raised couple Robinson and Cameron Carter-Vickers were also eligible to represent Southgate’s team before settling on the United States
“When I drew and saw the group [the U.S.] In the same group as England I was excited,” Carter-Vickers said on Wednesday. “They are one of the best teams in the world. Being able to play against them and compete with them and see where you are is a good thing.”
The opening game with Wales was also a good preparation. While England has more talent than its British neighbor, Musah suggested off-chart intensity and physicality are similar.
“Now that we’ve got our first game behind us, everyone has a sense of what the games are like, what the atmosphere is like,” Musah said of his first World Cup experience. “It’s now about higher stakes. We know what we are getting into.”
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They also know the opportunity at hand. A win over England would all but secure the Americans a place in the knockout rounds, but that’s only part of it. Toppling one of the favorites in front of what could be record-breaking streaming and television viewership over Thanksgiving weekend would capture the imagination of the country’s mainstream sports fans and lure America onto the bandwagon of a humble, exciting and utterly likeable team. A tie would also work. Either way, the US isn’t doing badly. Nobody expects much from them this Thanksgiving weekend. The pressure is on England. That’s perfectly fine for the US
“It’s going to be a big challenge,” Turner said. “It’s going to take a lot of concentration, but we’re looking forward to it.
“We’ve always carried a chip on our shoulder,” Adams said. “Playing a lot of these guys week in and week out gives you a little bit of familiarity with the game.
“We want to give the fans something to be thankful for.”
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Doug McIntyre is a football writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer at ESPN and Yahoo Sports and has covered the United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @By DougMcIntyre.
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