World Cup 2022: Wales coach eyes ‘maximum points’ against U.S. in opener

As the U.S. men’s national team prepares for its first World Cup in eight years, reality dictates that American soccer now commands more respect around the world than ever before. Even that, however, didn’t stop Gregg Berhalter’s side from receiving a bit of shade: opening-game opposition Wales.

When he met with reporters, Wales head coach Robert Page left no doubt that he expects his team to beat the United States in a showdown on Nov. 21 (2 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app) that many believe could decide second place and a qualifying position. out of group B.

“It will be good for (Wales and England) to both have maximum points in this last game, and we are challenging for top spot in the group,” said Page, knowing his team meets the USA, Iran and England, in that order. “I just have to focus on getting maximum points from these first two games.”

FIFA World Cup 2022 Preview: USA vs Wales

FIFA World Cup 2022 Preview: USA vs Wales

Stu Holden joins Colin Cowherd on “The Herd” to discuss what the USA should expect against Wales.

Page also indicated additional star power in the Wales team, with American Christian Pulisic, Gareth Bale and Welshman Aaron Ramsey likely to be the two most high-profile players in the game , could provide a telling advantage.

“Big players step up for big occasions,” Page added. “We’ve said that with Aaron in the past, and it’s no different with Gareth. Opponents (managers) will look at the team sheet and if they see his name on the team sheet, they know at any time that can win a match. you.”

Page’s upbeat stance isn’t unheard of, but it’s a little out of place for head coaches in the week before a World Cup. Usually, men in charge tend to play things down to avoid undue pressure or inflammatory headlines. However, with Wales appearing in their first World Cup since 1958, Page’s schedule could be slightly different from the norm, as the BBC’s Wales correspondent told me over the phone, Peter Shuttleworth.

“I think Page is just trying to give confidence to his team … that he has confidence in them,” Shuttleworth said. “He tries to talk a little bit about his team. He has to be optimistic about building them up. This is our first World Cup in 64 years, he has to galvanize a nation and show that we belong. The first game is the crucial one, and he realizes it.

“He has to be careful that Wales doesn’t have an inferiority complex and this is one way of managing that.”

Three things you need to know about Wales

Three things you need to know about Wales

Alexi Lalas breaks Wales, who return to the World Cup for the first time in 64 years.

By comparison, Gareth Southgate, manager of overwhelming group favorites England, was full of respect for the American team and especially for Pulisic, who cost Chelsea a $100 million transfer fee, but s ‘has mostly been limited to supporting appearances lately.

Southgate has repeatedly stated his belief that Group B is a significant challenge and that Berhalter, with whom he is friends, has a squad that should not be taken lightly.

“(Pulisic) is a very good player,” Southgate told ESPN. “He’s someone you have to be aware of and be prepared for.”

That said, having come within 20 minutes of reaching the final four years ago and losing the European Championship final on penalties, Southgate has big overall ambitions for his players.

“The (players) have reached a semi-final and a final, so they will be disappointed if they achieve less in Qatar,” he told European reporters last week.

Charlie Wyett, football writer for London’s Sun newspaper, said Southgate’s respectful remarks towards the Americans were in line with his way of doing business.

“Southgate is a politician because you have to be, to be England manager,” Wyett told me. “He knows how to play the game. He’s too smart to be drawn into saying something that might motivate the other team.

“He knows England are the favorites and they’re expected to win comfortably in the USA. But he’s not a disrespectful guy, he’ll say the right things. He’s got his own pressure to deal with. England fans have a loss with Southgate. — and the England team — at the moment.”

Top 50 World Cup players: Gareth Bale at number 42

Top 50 World Cup players: Gareth Bale at number 42

Wales’ Gareth Bale is known for his technical ability, speed and finishing touch, making him number 42 in Stu Holden’s 50 best players at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

From the USA’s third group opponent, Iran, there has been mostly radio silence until the last few days. The announcement of the Iranian team was even delayed due to controversy over political comments made by star striker Sardar Azmoun in relation to the widespread public protests currently sweeping his country.

Head coach Carlos Queiroz tried to strike an upbeat tone but directed much of his commentary towards first-round rivals England, who he said “can be beaten”.

As for Berhalter, his preferred tack is more in the Southgate mold, wanting to avoid providing bulletin board material for an opponent.

He will know, however, like Page, Southgate and Queiroz, that the first game of any World Cup is of monumental importance. FOX Bet has the Americans at +145 to beat Wales, with Page’s team at +180, and a draw at +187.

But when it comes to the cauldron of World Cup competition, and it’s time to deliver them, odds, words and other external factors ultimately count for nothing.

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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX i subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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