Monday 6 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
# drab
England jeered by own supporters after dreary draw with United States
A dreadful game finished 0-0 at the Al-Bayt Stadium.

England 0 

USA 0 

‘USA WINS 1-1′ read an American headline after their Rob Green-aided draw against England at South Africa 2010: tomorrow’s might read that, this time, they lost 0-0.  

england-v-usa-fifa-world-cup-2022-group-b-al-bayt-stadium PA England's Bukayo Saka picks himself up off the turf. PA

They were the better side in a desperate game in Qatar, lacking the clinical edge that would have given them a deserved win. England showed their World Cup credentials in hammering Iran on Monday, but tonight they exhibited their stultifying limitations. This was a zesltless, fearful performance of zero ambition, and had Christian Pulisic kept a first-half shot a few inches lower or Weston McKennie kept his lower by a few feet, it would have ended in defeat. 

England’s lack of intensity was shocking: perhaps they are cannily managing themselves through a hectic tournament,but any repeat of this performance will mean elimination.  

England optimists will cite the draw with Scotland at the Euros as proof that this is a side pacing themselves, but the presence of the USA wasn’t the only trigger of memories from 2010: England were so dull they were booed by their own fans at the full-time whistle, as they were against Algeria 12 years ago. 

This was the Decline of Western Supremacy Derby, held in a tent-dressed box rising out of the desert, a stadium built as one of Qatar’s many emblems of decadent power. Any potential pre-game atmosphere was swamped by the ear-splitting PA system at the Al-Bayt Stadium, and first-half proceedings on the pitch did little to take the sterility out of the air. It’s never a good thing when the England Band are the loudest thing about a game. England’s play was turgid and slow, moving as if stogged in the desert sand. They were passive without the ball and dawdled on it, too often playing safe passes backwards rather than try to break lines, admittedly made difficult by the States’ tight-knit structure out of possession. 

Any early spark came from Bukayo Saka, whose pull-back to Harry Kane was blocked behind by Tim Ream. England’s baffling torpor encouraged the US, who should have led at half-time. First Weston McKennie missed a sitter, hooking the ball over from the penalty spot with nobody near him, and then Christian Pulisic rattled the bar with a stunning, no-backlift strike from the edge of the box. 

With England remaining passive and the USA resolute, the fans tried to entertain themselves, with the US fans chanting, ‘It’s called soccer.’ England finally kindled something just before half-time, Sterling’s delightful slip pass releasing Mason Mount, whose shot was palmed away by Matt Turner. 

England’s dreary toil continued after half-time, and the USA remained the better team, repelled by a one-man defensive effort from none other than Harry Maguire. Southgate has staked his reputation on Maguire and here his man stood tall, heading away all that came his way as the USA laid siege from set pieces. 

Southgate’s first intervention wasn’t until the 68th minute, replacing Sterling and Bellingham with Jack Grealish and Jordan Henderson, Phil Foden conspicuously sitting on the bench. They changed little, and another long period of desultory England passing ending with Stones larupping the ball back to the US, flinging his arms out in disgust at the lack of movement ahead of him. 

england-v-usa-fifa-world-cup-2022-group-b-al-bayt-stadium PA An England fan captures the mood. PA

The England fans struggled to contain their ire, voicing their impatience at their team’s passivity as the game wound to its drab end. England’s delicate patterns of the game against Iran deserted them here: at one point Harry Kane dropped off and playing a classic pass in behind for where Mount should have been running. This is Kane 101, ans yet Mount had dropped off rather than sprint in behind. 

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Kane had a chance to win it in stoppage time, but headed Shaw’s free-kick wide. The final whistle was met by jeers from the England fans: precious little to bring with them on their trek back through the desert. 

England: Jordan Pickford; Kieran Trippier, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw; Jude Bellingham (Jordan Henderson, 68′), Declan Rice; Bukayo Saka (Marcus Rashford, 76′), Raheem Sterling (Jack Grealish, 68′), Mason Mount; Harry Kane 

USA: Matt Turner; Sergino Dest (Shaq Moore, 76′), Walker Zimmerman, Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson; Tyler Adams, Westom McKennie (Brenden Aaronson, 76′), Yunus Musah; Timothy Weah (Gio Reyna, 82′), Haji Wright (Josh Sargent, 82′), Christian Pulisic 

Referee: Jesus Valenzuela (VEN)

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