DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The first time the United States has faced England in the World Cup, The hastily assembled American squad was a ragtag group that included a postman, a gravedigger, a dishwasher, and a schoolteacher.
Few of the players had ever met before heading to Brazil in 1950 to take on powerhouse England, and the United States’ surprise 1-0 win is often associated with the ‘Miracle on Ice’ win over the Soviet Union in 1980 Lake Placid compared the Olympics to one of the greatest moments in American sports history.
The gap between the two national soccer teams isn’t nearly as great 72 years later, as England and the United States are set to play in Group B on Friday. In fact, US midfielder Tyler Adams said he was more scared of spiders than he was of England.
The Americans are the underdogs after the 1-1 draw with Wales. while England claim an opening 6-2 win over Iran.
“England are still a great team at the end of the day but the intimidation factor? I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of things out there that intimidate me, other than spiders,” said Adams, who plays for Premier League club Leeds.
“It’s fine for me, but of course I have to play against all these big players, so I’ve done that before. But we also want to show what we can do and that US football is developing and growing in the right way.”
But that American victory in 1950 was a rare victory against England, who have won eight of their 11 meetings against the United States. The top? Neither of those victories was a World Cup game and the sides’ second meeting on football’s greatest stage in 2010 ended in a 1-1 draw.
US midfielder Christian Pulisic doesn’t want to hear about statistics, rankings or predictions. The Americans failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and, after the opening draw, are tied with Wales for a place in the round of 16.
England leads the group with three points. A win or a draw on Friday would put the Americans in a good position to be one of the two teams going through.
“We don’t look at the odds and we’re not at the World Cup just to even the numbers,” said Pulisic. “We go, we give it our all in every game we play, we make America proud. We’ll have to wait and see where that takes us.”
A win for England would send the Three Lions into the last 16 with one game to play, but manager Gareth Southgate has warned against complacency after their opening defeat by Iran.
England captain Harry Kane, top scorer at the 2018 World Cup, injured his ankle against Iran and defender Harry Maguire left the game with blurred vision in the 70th minute. Kane has been training with the team for the past few days and is expected to play on Friday while Maguire has hinted he will be playing in his 50th appearance for the national team.
Southgate told his side they needed to play even better against the United States than they did against Iran and he thought the two late goals conceded proved England were careless towards the end of the game.
“They are a top-flight nation with a lot of top-flight players who have played in the Premier League and who we have played against,” said England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. “But it’s about us being 100 percent there as a team. It’s about taking the result from Iran and going into the US game positively.”
BACK ON THE FIELD
Qatar return to the competition after becoming the first hosts in World Cup history to lose their first game, a 1-0 loss to Ecuador on the tournament’s opening night.
Qatar gets another chance at a win against Senegal, who also lost their opener.
“There is a lot of room for improvement. Maybe the responsibility and nerves got the best of us,” said Qatar coach Felix Sanchez. “We didn’t start well. It was a terrible start.”
Senegal will be without Sadio Mane, the Bayern Munich striker who has been ruled out of the tournament with a leg injury. Midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate is also expected to be absent on Friday with a hamstring injury.
Without Mane at the World Cup, Senegal lost 2-0 to the Netherlands and coach Aliou Cissé demands more from strikers Ismaila Sarr and Krépin Diatta.
“We had to become more effective. Ismaila and Krepin are responsible there, but the absence of Mane is of course a problem for us,” said Cisse. “Our attackers are good and we know what they can do. We have to work on that with Ismaila and the others. We expect a lot from him and Krepin.”
Gareth Bale scored a late goal from a penalty to give Wales a draw against the United States in their opening game and was thrilled to star in his World Cup debut.
33-year-old Bale, who plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy in MLS, didn’t hesitate when called upon to take penalties.
“It was always me. No doubts,” said Bale. “I feel like I had to step up and I was happy about that.”
The Asian team is missing goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand, who is injured. He was cleared to continue by Iranian medical staff after clashing with a teammate in the opening game, but later collapsed on the field and was taken to a local hospital. Hossein Hosseini, the backup, should be tested by Bale.
Iran, who qualified for the last two World Cups, have never made it to the knockout stage.
Ecuador and the Netherlands have both won their opening games and on Friday striker Enner Valencia will take on striker Memphis Depay.
Valencia scored both of Ecuador’s goals in a 2-0 win over Qatar before leaving with a sore knee but will play on Friday.
“Enner will play against the Netherlands, there’s no doubt about that,” said Ecuador coach Gustavo Alfaro.
Depay returned from a hamstring injury and led the Netherlands in a 2-0 win over Senegal. He came off the bench in that game but wants to start against Ecuador.
“He’s a player who can make the difference,” said Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal. “He will want to play but I have to assess his form.”
A win for either team would likely guarantee promotion from Group A. ___
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