United boss Gregg Berhalter has said England would be a “scary” prospect at the World Cup as Gareth Southgate made the shirt “a cape rather than a straitjacket”.
There are just 54 days until the start of the winter tournament in Qatar, where the United States join the Three Lions, Wales and Iran in Group B.
England are favorites to top the group and among World Cup contenders, having reached the semi-finals in Russia four years ago and finished second at Euro 2020.
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Things have turned sour in recent months and Southgate’s side head to Qatar for a six-game winless streak, but United boss Berhalter expects a lot from his Group B rivals.
“What I would say is that I don’t know if the expectations have always lived up to the quality of the team,” said the former defender, who appeared at two World Cups as a player.
“In 2010, realistically, I didn’t think they had the team that could win the World Cup, did you? But now it’s different. Now I think we’re all d agree that they have a team that can win the World Cup.
“And Gareth, in my opinion, has done a great job of helping the players deal with that pressure.
“And actually using the jersey as a cape rather than a straitjacket and really giving them the freedom to play on the pitch, giving them the idea that they can represent their country in a positive way and make the country proud .”
Asked what kind of challenge England will pose alongside him on November 25, Berhalter said: “Scary.
“It’s scary to think about how we’re going to beat them. We are going to look at some of the games, look at some of their vulnerabilities and try to exploit them.
“For us it’s about looking at the group as a whole, not just focusing on England, because we know that’s one of the games that accounts for 33% of the games we have in the first round. .
“Our job, our goal, is to finish in the top two and move on.”
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Berhalter sees the World Cup as “two separate tournaments” as the United States seek to advance to the knockout stage.
Getting off to a good start in Qatar will be crucial in that sense, meaning a positive result against Wales in their Group B opener at Al Rayyan would be huge.
The November 21 clash will be the first Dragon World Cup match since 1958 and Berhalter expects Robert Page’s men to be a tough opponent.
“We played Wales in the fall of 2020 and they were a good team,” added the American manager.
“A very difficult team to score, a physical team, a lot of Premier League players, real quality in attack, quality defenders. I think they are a solid team.
“I’m interested to see how, first of all, we interact with Wales when we play them, but also how Wales interact with the other teams in the group, especially England.
“There’s a fierce rivalry there, so it’s going to be an exciting group. You don’t often have three English-speaking teams in the same group, so it’s going to be exciting for everyone.