A quick Saturday round-up for you. I only caught the second half of England v USA, so my comments are restricted to that. When I caught up with the game, England were under a fair bit of pressure after a series of corners, but withstood that. If there’s one thing Harry Maguire is good at it, it’s heading cannonballs from opposition crosses and set-pieces.
But from an attacking perspective, Gareth Southgate’s team looked very flat and lacking any imagination. There was the late Harry Kane header from a free kick, but beyond that they really didn’t create much of note. I thought Matt Turner was solid in goal for the US, his distribution is definitely improved from when we saw him first, and he was solid with his hands when he needed to be. I also thought Tyler Adams looked good, a player we’ve been linked with in the past.
We got to a point in the game where I think England, subconsciously or otherwise, knew that in the context of the group a point was basically fine given that they’d won the first game so handsomely. I think they also knew that if they did commit men forward to try and win it, the US were capable of using that space dangerously – whether they quite had the quality up front to really threaten I guess it’s hard to say.
I spoke to Clive on the Arsecast yesterday about lots of World Cup stuff, but we specifically talked about Phil Foden. He’s having a superb season for Man City, Mason Mount is having a very average one for Chelsea and a very average tournament so far, so I’m a bit confused as to why we didn’t see him. Maybe an injury? Maybe Southgate’s inherent conservatism, which I think he finds hard to shake. Man for man, and with all due respect to the US players, England have more quality and should have been more willing to go for it, but they didn’t and a point each was the outcome.
It certainly sets up an interesting final day in the group, not least because Wales were beaten by Iran earlier in the day. Down to 10 men and with just a couple of minutes of injury time to go, they gave the ball away carelessly from inside their own box, and Roozbeh Cheshmi spanked it into the bottom corner. A lovely finish to be fair. There was even time for a second, deep, deep into added time, a cute dinked finish over the goalkeeper. In regular time, Iran had one ruled out for offside, hit the woodwork a couple of times, while Wales didn’t offer much at all from an attacking perspective.
So, in the final game the USA take on Iran knowing a win would take them through, while Iran could qualify with a draw depending on what happens between England and Wales. Wales looked very poor yesterday though. The obvious decline of Aaron Ramsey is sad to see, he just doesn’t have the legs anymore, but that happens to players. You can offset some of the physical decline by using your experience, the first two yards in your head and all that, but it’s not there. Or, at least, not yet. The same is true of Gareth Bale, and those two have been so important for Wales.
I guess some Arsenal fans might have been hoping for a group state scenario where England had qualified already, and we might see Ben White and Aaron Ramsdale get a game in a dead rubber, but no doubt Southgate will pick more or less the same team on Tuesday. Wales will have to make it a scrap, so it will certainly be an interesting one.
Today the pick of the game is Mexico v Argentina, at 7pm this evening. One of those I’ll have to keep an eye on online because I’ll be out, but after what happened to Messi and Co in the first game, this is crucial for them and it won’t be easy. And on paper, France v Denmark is a decent one this afternoon too. Will Olivier Giroud break Thierry Henry’s record?
Right, the Arsecast is below if you haven’t had a chance to listen already. Enjoy the football today, or enjoy whatever it is you’re doing of a Saturday that isn’t football. I’m off to get my eyes tested. Till tomorrow.