AL RAYYAN, Qatar — The United States were favorites in their opening World Cup draw against Wales. The Americans are also the bookies’ choice to win their group stage final against Iran. But in the monumental Black Friday showdown against England (2 p.m. ET, FOX and the FOX Sports app), it’s a different story.
“They’re probably one of the favorites to win the World Cup,” US captain Tyler Adams told FOX Sports of the Three Lions. “We know we’re probably underdogs.”
There probably aren’t any. The Americans are a long way from beating Jude Bellingham, Harry Kane & Co. It’s no secret. It might even be a good thing. After all, it’s been a long time since the USMNT has felt more comfortable.
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“I think we’ve always been the underdog in America’s eyes,” said forward Tim Weah, who scored the United States’ goal in Monday’s deflated 1-1 draw with the Welsh. “They wonder if we know how to play football. And I think it’s time to show the world that we can play with the best and beat the best.”
Getting even one point, let alone all three, on Friday would be a triumph for Gregg Berhalter’s team. Perhaps Weah’s optimism betrays the naivety of youth. Although the second-youngest team in the tournament respects England and knows very well what they are capable of, the Americans are not afraid of them either. Not a bad starting point in a World Cup that has already seen two monumental upsets in the first 12 games: Saudi Arabia beat Lionel Messi and Argentina on Tuesday, a day before Germany lost to Japan.
“When you have a team that’s committed to the same message,” U.S. goalkeeper Matt Turner told reporters Wednesday, “You can beat anybody on any day.”
The Americans’ all-time World Cup record of 1W-0L-1T against England proves Turner’s point, even if it has nothing to do with the current US team. More relevant is the fact that this USMNT has significantly more experience playing in England than any before. Five starters against Wales: Adams, Turner, Christian Pulisic, Tim Ream and Jedi Robinson play in the Premier League. So does Brenden Aaronson, who could write stricken midfielder Weston McKennie on Friday (a USMNT spokesman said all 26 players, including McKennie, would be available for selection).
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Striker Josh Sargent was in the Prem last season before Norwich were relegated; he is among the top scorers this season in the English second division championship. New York City-born starting midfielder Yunus Musah spent his formative years in London, where he was a member of Arsenal’s youth system. Musah also captained the England Under-18s before a call from Berhalter convinced him to represent his home nation (Musah reiterated on Wednesday that he has never spoken to England manager Gareth Southgate).
“It’s a special game for sure because I’ve played both sides,” Musah said. English born-and-bred pair Robinson and Cameron Carter-Vickers were also eligible to represent Southgate’s team before opting for the US
“When I saw the group drawn and I saw [the U.S.] was in the same group as England, I was excited,” Carter-Vickers said on Wednesday. “They are one of the best teams in the world. To be able to play against them and go up against them and see where you’re at is a good thing.”
Facing Wales in the first game was also good preparation. Although England have more talent than their UK neighbour, Musah suggested the intensity and physicality off the charts is similar.
“Now that we have our first game out of the way, everybody has an idea of what the games are like, what the atmosphere is like,” Musah said of his first World Cup experience. “The stakes are higher now. We know what we’re in for.”
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They also know the opportunity before them. Beating England would all but ensure the Americans advance to the knockout stages, but that’s only part of it. Knocking off a favorite in front of what could be a broadcast and television viewership record on Thanksgiving weekend would capture the imagination of the nation’s major sports fans and pull America on the bandwagon of a lowly, exciting team. and totally nice. A tie would also work. Either way, the US is not in a bad place. No one expects much from them this Thanksgiving weekend. The pressure is on England. That’s fine with the US
“It’s going to be a big challenge,” Turner said. “It’s going to take a lot of focus, but we’re looking forward to it.
“We’ve always carried a chip on our shoulder,” Adams said. “Playing against a lot of these guys week in and week out gives you some 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 writer for ESPN and Yahoo Sports and has covered the US men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @By Doug McIntyre.
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