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USA could be a nightmare opponent for England at the 2022 World Cup

England have good reason to feel good about their 2022 World Cup chances right now. Gareth Southgate’s side played a free-flowing game as they started their campaign in Qatar with an emphatic 6-2 win over Iran while rivals like Argentina and Germany have suffered shock defeats at the tournament.

 

And yet England can’t afford to take the USA lightly in Friday’s fixture. While Gregg Berhalter’s team were pegged back by Wales in their opening World Cup fixture, there were signs of how they could trouble the Three Lions. In fact, the USA might be more comfortable against England than they were against Wales.

 

The USA will be more reactive against England who are expected to control possession. This, however, could give them the chance to hit out on the counter attack with several players in the USA squad suited to a quick transition game – Yunus Musah, Timothy Weah and Christian Pulisic, to name a few.

 

Berhalter could change the profile of his midfield following the 1-1 draw against Wales. The American central unit of Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Musah is well-established having played together through the majority of CONCACAF qualifying, but someone like Brenden Aaronson could give the USA more energy to close down England.

 

Weah is one player in particular who has the potential to cause problems for England. A large part of the USA’s game plan against Wales focused on releasing the Lille winger down the right side with Weah an important source of vertical threat. Without his speed and direct running, the USA would be a more predictable team to play against.

 

Luke Shaw will look to get forward for England down the left side and this could leave space in behind for Weah to exploit. The USA must be bold in trying to release the 22-year-old into space as often as possible even if some of their passes ultimately run out of play – this channel must be kept open.

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Against Wales, Tim Ream was picked to play alongside Walker Zimmerman in centre defender with the veteran Fulham defender’s technical ability giving Berhalter’s team a way to play out from the back. His relationship with Fulham teammate Antonee Robinson was clear in the way the pair combined down the left side.

 

Much of the American discussion following Monday’s World Cup opener revolved around Berhalter’s decision not to introduce Gio Reyna off the bench in the second half. The initial suggestion was that Reyna’s fitness had prevented him from featuring, but the player himself clarified that he was ready and available.

 

Reyna is the most talented individual in the USA squad and could give his team a sharper attacking edge in Qatar, but the 20-year-old is most effective in tight spaces against low defensive blocks. It’s feasible England could sit deep for periods of Friday’s match, but Reyna’s inclusion would likely be in the place of Pulisic.

 

Pulisic hasn’t always produced his best football for the USA, but he remains his country’s greatest difference-maker. The Chelsea winger contributed an assist for Weah against Wales that came from a moment of quick transition and the USA, in theory, should have more of those moments against England even if they have to defend for long stretches of the match.

 

England are favourites to pick up a second win at the 2022 World Cup such is the talent advantage they hold over the USA, but the match-up could be a difficult one for the Three Lions. England have never beaten the USA at a World Cup and Friday could be their toughest test against their rivals from across the Atlantic yet.

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