Ask most football fans which team is likely to come through Group B as the winners at the Qatar World Cup this winter and top seeds England would have been the top pick for many.
They’d then argue that the second place spot in the group would be a battle between the United States and recently-qualified Wales, with Iran perhaps the wild card.
But that could well be changing after a startling run of form for Gareth Southgate’s team has seen them fail to score a goal from open play, or win a game, in any of their last four Nations League games, leaving them propping up the Nations League A Group 3 table.
However, it will be yesterday’s 4-0 defeat at home against Hungary that will have English fans concerned, and USMNT supporters hopeful that they may well stand a very good chance of winning this group.
USMNT Form Solid If Not Spectacular
Since qualifying for the World Cup with their 5-1 win over Panama, the USMNT have lost
just one game, their final qualifier against Costa Rica when they were already through.
In the games that have followed they have defeated a talented Morocco side 3-0 and earned a creditable draw with a strong Uruguay team.
They have also started their CONCACAF Nations League defense confidently with a 5-0 thrashing of Grenada followed by a 1-1 draw away to El Salvador last week, thanks to Jordan Morris’ 91st minute equaliser.
In contrast, England’s results since a friendly win over the Ivory Coast have been poor.
A 1-0 loss in Hungary was followed by a fortunate 1-1 draw in Germany, given to them by a late penalty award that was generous to say the least.
England then drew 0-0 at home with a young and inexperienced Italy team before suffering one of their worst home defeats in living memory on Tuesday when Hungary defeated them 4-0 on home soil.
As the team left the field to a chorus of boos from angry fans, Gareth Southgate, the England manager, will be worried at the lack of creativity shown by his team in all four of those games.
But for Gregg Berhalter and his fellow managers in World Cup Finals Group B, England’s woes and lack of quality will have given them real hope of progressing from the group.
What Are England’s Problems That The USMNT Can Exploit?
The USMNT already have a very good record against England, especially at World Cup
Finals, so they don’t necessarily need any assistance in getting a result against the Three Lions if history is anything to go by.
However, England’s main issues do give Coach Berhalter and his team a real chance to exploit these weaknesses and ensure they get a good result.
Key weaknesses the US Team should look to exploit are:
- England’s over-reliance on just two players, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, scoring their goals.
- A similar over-reliance on goals to be scored from set pieces or penalties.
- A very defensive outlook in Southgate’s preferred formation 3-4-3, which essentially sees England line up with eight defensive players and just three attacking ones.
- A complete lack of creativity in midfield as a result of the above.
- Southgate refusing to play England’s most naturally gifted and creative players as he feels they don’t fit into his system. Namely Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish.
- A lack of quality options at left back, meaning players are often asked to play out of position in that area due to the absence of players like Ben Chilwell or Luke Shaw.
- Out of form central defenders being picked (Stones, Maguire) regardless of their form, while attacking players out of form (Rashford, Sancho) are dropped from the squad when they lose form.
It is worth remembering that England did reach the World Cup Semi Finals and the European Championship Finals in the past two major tournaments, their best performances for many a year and Southgate has been England’s most successful manager since Alf Ramsey on those terms.
With just two more games before the World Cup Finals starts, time is running out for Southgate to put things right.
England should have been putting the finishing touches to their squad and team right now, just as the USMNT is doing, not looking for a completely new approach given their complete lack of form, despite how much quality there is in this squad of players.
However, there is a fragility with this top-ranking team, who are still one of the favorites to win the World Cup, that will give the USMNT every opportunity to land another victory against their rivals from across the Atlantic Ocean.