Gareth Southgate insisted afterwards that he’s not unhappy and expected a tight game given the strength of their American opponents. His players were frustrated post-match, but can only blame themselves for a ponderous and unsettling display as they – like the Netherlands three hours earlier – failed to secure the World Cup’s first last-16 berth with a group game to spare.
Kane’s stoppage-time miss the last action in drab draw
England 0-0 USA
- Underwhelming stalemate marks World Cup’s fifth goalless draw through 20 games
- Chelsea man Christian Pulisic hit woodwork in first-half as England left defensively vulnerable, while McKennie and Kane both missed good opportunities at either end
- Result leaves Group B finely poised before Tuesday’s final set of fixtures as England play Wales and USA entertain Iran – who occupy the runner-up spot after surprise 2-0 win
Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Turner’s shaky early touch aside, Gregg Berhalter’s USA side acquitted themselves well in the early going against England. They should’ve built on it and won here.
The tournament’s second-youngest side behind Ghana, they began positively and were unafraid to impose themselves in midfield: Yunus Musah, captain Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie proving a frequent thorn as England attempted to patiently play their way into space.
The latter had USA’s best chance of the first-half, skewing Timothy Weah’s cross over the bar from 10 yards out.
Harry Kane found himself frequently dropping deep to receive possession after going close twice in quick succession with early half-chances, while Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka were criticised by the ITV commentary team for being bypassed too easily on their respective flanks.
The warning signs continued for Gareth Southgate’s passive players, as Chelsea winger Christian Pulisic rattled the crossbar from a difficult angle as Kieran Trippier stood off him in the box.
Harry Maguire made an important block to thwart a marauding Sergino Dest as the Milan loanee fullback charged goalwards, before Pulisic headed wide shortly afterwards.
Luke Shaw’s clever chop and burst of speed in a tight space saw him evade the attention of both Dest and a trailing Weah near the byline before squaring the ball back for an unmarked Saka in the area – but the Arsenal man didn’t properly connect with the strike and flashed wide.
In stoppage-time, Mason Mount threatened to open the scoring. Turner dived to his right and was equal to the effort, though it was a timely reminder of what England could create, provided they were more incisive and less ponderous with their passing in the middle third.
Although both teams seemed in need of substitutes, there were no changes at the break.
At times it seemed like Adams was on a one-man mission to stifle any England opportunities in their tracks, berating teammates to sharpen up defensively and tighten up out of possession.
That would prove easier said than done as legs tired and time wore on.
Such was their busy, buzzing nature off-the-ball, it wasn’t a surprise to see a graphic showing Musah and Weah both (8 each) forced the most turnovers of any player at the 62-minute mark.
England trouncing Iran 6-2 on Monday – who scored two stoppage-time goals to stun Wales earlier in the day – felt like papering over the cracks for a Southgate-led side who hadn’t won any of their last six matches – including a pair of contrasting defeats by Hungary in June.
Substitutes came for both in search of the opener and while questions were asked before an impactful Jordan Henderson cameo, one name in particular was a telling omission: Phil Foden.
As questions persisted, was he potentially carrying a knock? No. Southgate insisted afterwards on BBC Radio 5 Live that the Grealish-Rashford combo off the bench was their preferred choice and one they thought would help “get them over the line”. Hmm.
Rashford tried his luck from distance but presented nothing more than catching practice for Turner, while Henderson’s inclusion felt counterproductive – no matter how you tried to slice it.
Grealish tried to quicken the pace and often had the right idea, though lacked execution. It felt fitting though, his quick feet won a late free-kick from which England could’ve stolen the spoils.
In stoppage-time, Kane headed Trippier’s subsequent free-kick delivery wide in the match’s final opportunity.
America could exhale, especially having conceded a late penalty against Wales on MD1. With more clinical finishing in the final third, they’d already be in conservation mode with already-eliminated Qatar in their third group game next Tuesday. Instead, jeopardy remains for them.
England lacked the US’ midfield dynamism, something often said a lot against better on opposition. Despite a deep squad packed with options, the same issues of old remain.
Questionable changes and not progressing enough in another uninspiring showing, this display only reiterates the belief December will be a testing month for England. Tougher tests await.
Picture source: Getty Images