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FIFA WC: Pleased with application of my players, they defended well, says England manager after draw against USA
Al Khor: Following the goalless draw with the USA in their second Group B match at the ongoing FIFA World Cup, England manager Gareth Southgate said that he was pleased with the application of his players and felt his side controlled the game really well against a tough opposition by defending well.
USA put up a tough performance to hold England to a goalless draw in a Group B match of the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2022 at the Al Bayt Stadium. "Were we booed off though? I am not sure if that was aimed at us, I do not know, but look personally I am really pleased with the application of the players, it was a really tough opponent, they defended incredibly well," Southgate was quoted as saying by Sky Sports in a press conference after the game.
"To come off the high of the performance the other day and find that same energy, level of quality was always going to be a challenge. Their front six make it so difficult to play through and get at their defence and I thought we actually controlled the game really well."
"Our two centre-backs were absolutely outstanding with the ball, to play with such composure against the sort of pressure and angles that the USA team press with is unbelievably difficult. And it is only when you have two players like we have that you really appreciate the strain of the game they can take."
"Yes, we lacked a little bit of zip and quality in the final third and we were not able to open up to create really good chances, but we had to show another side of ourselves in terms of the resilience without the ball, the recovery runs, defending our box well, defending any number of corners and set plays that came in," he said.
England is at the top of the group with four points and are in contention for the last 16 phase if they are able to avoid a 4-0 loss to Wales in their final match on Tuesday. Southgate was pleased with the resillience of his players.
"To be a successful team in a tournament, you have got to show those different faces and I think we did that tonight and I am sure there will be a lot of noise about the performance, but not many teams go through World Cups and get nine points in the group," said the manager.
"We are in a good position, we have a little bit more to do to qualify still, but we also have the opportunity to win the group, so for me, the players were very down and disappointed after the game, but I told them that is not how it is going to be for the next few days because I thought they showed another side to what they are about and it is going to be important going forward," he said.
Southgate opted to introduce Jack Grealish and Jordan Henderson with quarter of the game to go, before Marcus Rashford entered the fray 10 minutes later.
But, Manchester City striker Phil Foden was left unused and Southgate defended it by saying, "Whichever one of our forwards we did not put on and we did not win the game, I was going to be sitting here answering the question as to why I did not put them on."
"We wanted to change the wide areas. We did not think it was a game for Phil in the middle because he does not play there for his club."
"Defensively, it was a really complicated game for the midfield three to work out. It is partly why we felt Hendo [Jordan Henderson] could help us at that moment as well as giving Jude [Bellingham] the physical rest."
"It was a game for experience in that middle area, so then it was a decision on the wide players and we thought Marcus [Rashford]'s speed would be important and give us something different, and we put Jack [Grealish] on just before that at a time when we were not getting hold of the ball and we felt he could carry it up the pitch to relieve some pressure on our middle third."
"Without doubt, we could have gone with Phil as he is a super player and we love him. Maybe, things could have been different, but that was the choice we went with on the night," he concluded.
England edged closer to a place in the World Cup knockout rounds with this draw. However, the Three Lions will have to wait until their final group game with Wales on Tuesday to seal a last-16 spot.
Harry Maguire had to head away several corners as the Americans applied pressure in the second half after Christian Pulisic's first-half strike hit the crossbar.
The only time the anaemic Three Lions assault came close to worrying the USA was when Harry Kane's attempt was blocked early in the game and Luke Shaw's free-kick was headed wide in stoppage time of the second half.
However, soon their control lacked direction and Southgate's team appeared unsure and disjointed without the ball as Haji Wright headed wide, Weston McKennie missed a fantastic opportunity, and Yunus Musah saw a shot deflected into Jordan Pickford's hands.
After that, Pulisic's goal-bound attempt from Sergino Dest was successfully blocked by Maguire, and England managed to hold on till halftime. There was little to hide England's troubles in the first 45 minutes, despite a late shot over from Saka and the Three Lions' first attempt on target of the game in stoppage time from Mount.
There was no improvement after the break, finally, in the 68th minute, Southgate intervened, replacing the unproductive Raheem Sterling and, more surprisingly, Jude Bellingham with Jordan Henderson and Jack Grealish.
Grealish secured a few free kicks near the USA's penalty area, and Kane's header from Shaw's cross in the dying seconds went wide. (ANI)