World Cup: Sluggish England frustrated in US stalemate

England crashed back down to earth on Friday evening as they played out a goalless draw against the USA in Group B to leave them still needing a result against Wales in their final group game. The Three Lions’ performance could not have been more contrasting to their opening match against Iran, where they should fluid movement, a clinical eye for goal and a fearlessness in attack. Last night was the opposite, Gareth Southgate’s men lost control of midfield, looked sluggish throughout and struggled against a team they would have expected to dominate.

It was only fortune – and a brilliant defensive performance from Harry Maguire – that saw England leave the game with a point. USA’s talisman Christian Pulisic rattled the woodwork in their closest attempt at goal but it will be frustrating for Southgate to see how easily the US piled pressure on England’s final third. The performance was so poor that England were booed off the pitch at the end of the game and now need a result against Wales to qualify.

Unnecessary pressure has been lumped on the manager’s shoulders due to the draw and it didn’t help that he decided to keep Phil Foden on the bench when the game was crying out for more creativity. Southgate knows he will be judged on results and should England cruise past Wales on Tuesday this result will be a but another blip in the record.

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Luis Enrique warns Spain not to underestimate Germany in crucial World Cup clash

Luis Enrique warned overconfidence could cause Spain’s downfall when they face Germany in their second Group E clash on Sunday.

Spain dominated their opening contest, trouncing Costa Rica 7-0 with the highest margin of any win in Qatar so far and netting the most goals the country have ever scored in a World Cup match.

It was a performance that surprised even their manager, who urged his players to remain measured in their response to the decisive victory.

Luis Enrique said: “We tried to manage that victory with all normality. We got the three points, that’s it.”

Michael Jones26 November 2022 16:24


Brennan Johnson convinced Wales are capable of beating England

Wales’ hopes of making the knockout stages were left hanging by a thread after losing 2-0 to Iran.

England’s goalless draw with the United States on Friday night means that Wales still have a path to the round of 16, but qualification is out of their own hands unless they beat Gareth Southgate’s side by a four-goal margin.

More realistically, Wales must beat England on Tuesday – something they have not achieved since 1984 – while hoping Iran and United States draw their final game.

Michael Jones26 November 2022 16:10


France vs Denmark LIVE: World Cup 2022 team news and line-ups as Raphael Varane starts

Les Bleus will qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament should they sweep past Denmark this afternoon but they haven’t beaten today’s opponents since 2015.

Denmark are strong performers; they reached the Euro 2020 semi-finals and recently won both Nations League games against France whilst earning a 0-0 draw with the eventual champions in the group stages of the 2018 World Cup. That form will give Denmark confidence heading into this tricky game as they search for their first win of the competition.

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Kieran Jackson26 November 2022 15:55


Rich Jolly: Belgium’s best is behind them but enough magic remains for one last shot at World Cup glor

It is the last chance for Belgium’s golden generation, but not their best chance. Not according to their captain, anyway. Belgium have spent much of the period since the last World Cup as officially the international game’s best team. Now they are ranked second on the planet, sandwiched by the South American superpowers of Brazil and Argentina.

But if Fifa’s figures suggest they are among the favourites, other numbers – principally their ages – suggest they are not. They were semi-finalists in Russia. That, Eden Hazard felt, was nearer their peak. “To be fair, I think we had a better chance to win four years ago,” the Belgium skipper said. “The team was better four years ago but still we have the quality to win games and competitions. We have a few guys who are a bit older.”

Hazard’s justification for each part of his analysis was instructive. He cited Belgium’s strengths, while being aware of the deficiencies that, logically, mean their finest opportunity has gone.

“We have the best goalkeeper in the world, one of the best midfielders in the world and we have good strikers,” he said, referencing Thibaut Courtois, Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku. “We are the complete team.”

Yet one department of the side went unmentioned in that answer. As Hazard said with a smile a couple of minutes earlier: “Our defenders are not the fastest and they know.” Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld are 35 and 33; for clubs and country, they have lined up together more than 350 times..

Kieran Jackson26 November 2022 15:35


England serve World Cup reminder that Southgate-ball can be a tortuous watch

England stuck with the same XI in the same 4-3-3 shape which ripped through Iran four days earlier, but this was a completely different gameplan by Gareth Southgate, who came to the Al-Bayt Stadium clearly wary of USA’s press. England tried to nullify by doing nothing at all: their most common passing combination was John Stones to Harry Maguire, and their second-most common passing combination was Maguire to Stones. If Southgate took the handbrake off against Iran, he pulled it up again for the USA, then left the car in the garage, locked the door and dropped the keys in a canal.

Lawrence Ostlere provides the tactical breakdown England vs USA:

Kieran Jackson26 November 2022 15:18


Chastening Wales World Cup defeat prompts feeling of the end of an era

Aaron Ramsey’s exit was overshadowed. One of the players of Euro 2016 slipped out of his penultimate game of the 2022 World Cup, and surely any World Cup, amid the chaos caused by Wayne Hennessey’s sending-off. He was sacrificed for a substitute goalkeeper, with Danny Ward’s cameo involving the concession of two goals. The recipient of the first red card in Qatar was hugged by his friend Gareth Bale on his way off.

Wales football would not be at their first World Cup since the 1950s without Hennessey’s heroics against Ukraine, but his tournament is over and, after defeat to Iran, theirs nearly is. “We want to finish the competition on a high,” said manager Robert Page; it seemed realism rather than defeatism, to say their derby with England will be the end even though, mathematically, Wales’ fate was not sealed.

When Ramsey was removed, Bale remained on the pitch. Page’s tactic was to hope against hope a player with the propensity to produce something special out of nothing could turn rescuer again. He couldn’t; indeed he never threatened to. The faith in him stemmed from the evidence of his career, not the preceding 85 minutes.

Kieran Jackson26 November 2022 15:00


World Cup 2022: England add ‘USA 22’ to their collection of stodgy tournament games

I believe that that was bad. Not Nice bad. Not Cape Town bad. Certainly not Belo Horizonte in 1950 bad. But be in no doubt, after the fluidity and free-scoring of Monday’s opening game and the hope that England’s struggles since the turn of the year could be behind them, this was a return to stodgy, uninspired, set-piece reliant fare that has pockmarked the Gareth Southgate era, and it was bad.

Southgate warned that this would be a very different game compared to Iran. He was right about that. But he also predicted that it would be played at “100 mph” and that his players would have to be at it from the first whistle. If that was the type of contest he was expecting, he expected wrong, and perhaps that misreading of the challenge that the United States posed was at the root of England’s below-par performance.

Long passages of the first half resembled the vision of this sport from the States’ most popular and successful cultural export. Halfback passed to centre, back to wing, back to centre, centre held it. Held it. Held it. John Stones ended the first half with the most touches of any player on the pitch, while Harry Maguire and Kieran Trippier were not too far behind. England’s build-up did not get off the ground floor.

Kieran Jackson26 November 2022 14:45


World Cup 2022: Wales will play for more than just pride against England, says Jack Grealish

England attacker Jack Grealish has warned that Wales will be playing for more than just pride when the sides meet at the World Cup on Tuesday. The neighbouring nations clash at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in their final Group B game.

Robert Page’s side also drew with the USA but were deservedly beaten by Iran in their second game. They now need a minor miracle to get out of the group but could yet send England home with a big win.

“Wales have got very good players,” he said. “They will be playing not just for pride. In their heads, they are not out, they still have a game to play and can still qualify. It’s going to be difficult for them, but they can still qualify. We have a few days to prepare. It’s all in our hands.”

Kieran Jackson26 November 2022 14:30


World Cup 2022: James Maddison back in England training ahead of final World Cup group match with Wales

James Maddison returned to England football team training on Saturday following rehabilitation on a knee injury.

The 26-year-old was unavailable for the 6-2 win against Iran and 0-0 draw with the United States due to the issue that led to his first-half substitution in Leicester’s final match before the World Cup 2022.

Maddison downplayed concerns over the injury and spoke about a positive scan upon England’s arrival in Qatar, but the midfielder has been conspicuous by his absence from training.

The midfielder returned to the group on Saturday as he joined the 13 non-starters from Friday night’s draw with the USA in training at their Al Wakrah Sports Complex base.

Jordan Henderson, who came off the bench in the second half against the USA, was the only non-starter that worked away from the group as he did an individualised programme indoors alongside those that started. England sit atop of Group B heading into their final pool match against Wales on Tuesday.

(Getty Images)

Kieran Jackson26 November 2022 14:15


World Cup 2022: England fans’ boos add layer to noise around Gareth Southgate

It could be said, at least initially, that Gareth Southgate was in denial. That could easily apply to his comments that John Stones and Harry Maguire were “absolutely outstanding on the ball”, or that it wasn’t a game for Phil Foden in the middle “because he doesn’t play there for his club”.

It is really, however, about the result of all that. A very noisy number of England fans at the Al Bayt were again booing Southgate. It was of course loudest at the final whistle. Given Southgate’s response, the Simpsons meme from Waylon Smithers to Mr Burns has never been more apt. “Were we booed off, though? I’m not sure if that was aimed at us. I don’t know.”

When pressed on it, and told there was no real reason for any other boos, Southgate went from denial to an element of defiance.

Kieran Jackson26 November 2022 13:59

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