The first time the USA men’s national team faced England in a World Cup was in 1950, a miracle happened. The hastily assembled US squad – made up in part of amateur players who worked part-time as teachers, dishwashers and postmen – knew England had the stronger side. “We certainly had no idea that we were going to beat them,” reflected former US defender Harry Keough decades later. “But we thought we could give them a fight for it.”
That struggle came to a head in the 37th minute of the first half when Haiti-born US forward Joe Gaetjens managed to graze the ball just enough to put it into the English goal. England never recovered and the game ended in a 1-0 USA victory. The result was so unthinkable that many news outlets, including the New York Timessuspected that the reported score was a typo.
USA forward Joe Gaetjens is carried away by cheering fans after Team USA lost their game on March 28.
The last surviving member of the 1950 US squad died in 2018, and few people alive today will remember that game. Still, his legacy transcends the football rivalry between the United States and England, whose sides are set to meet at Doha’s Al Bayt Stadium on Friday. The last time these two nations faced each other at a men’s World Cup was more than 10 years ago in South Africa. It ended in a 1:1 draw. Although England are favorites to win this game in Qatar, American fans are hoping their side can pull off another miracle.
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Recent history does not bode well for the USA The team qualified for this World Cup after failing four years ago in what was seen as a major setback in their efforts to bring the world’s most popular game onto the American sports scene – regardless of the US’s success -Women’s national team. Against England, in particular, the US men’s team has lost the vast majority of their games – in fact all but a win in the group stage of the 1950 World Cup in Brazil and a 2-0 win at the 1993 US Cup. Team USA is significantly younger and less experienced than the Three Lions (as the England squad is known), who arrived in Qatar after impressive performances at last year’s UEFA European Football Championship and the 2018 World Cup.
But if history is any guide, neither side should speculate as to how Friday’s game will go. England manager Gareth Southgate warned against complacency in a post-match press conference on Monday, noting that the USA team “will come full throttle for us”. And US midfielder Christian Pulisic warned in the days leading up to the tournament. “We don’t look at the odds and we’re not in the World Cup just to even the numbers,” he told Britain’s daily mirror. “We go, we give it our all in every game we play, we make America proud. We’ll have to wait and see where that takes us.”
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of game day.
When is the game and how to watch it in the US?
Kick-off is scheduled for Friday, November 25 at 2:00 p.m. ET. Viewers in the US can watch the game live on FOX or via a variety of streaming options.
How have both teams fared in the tournament so far?
Both teams will enter the Al Bayt Stadium on Friday undefeated. England started the 2022 World Cup on Monday with a convincing 6-2 victory over Iran. Although the USA took an early lead later that day with an impressive goal from striker Timothy Weah, the game ended in a draw after a penalty by Wales captain Gareth Bale.
Forward Timothy Weah hugs teammates after scoring the USA’s first goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup in their match against Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 21, 2022.
Jewel Samad – AFP/Getty Images
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In terms of the points that ultimately decide which two teams in Group B advance to the knockout stages, England top the rankings with three points, followed by the USA and Wales with one point each and Iran with zero points. Assuming next week’s win against Iran, which is likely to be America’s easiest (though by no means guaranteed) game at this stage of the tournament, a win or draw against England on Friday would put the USA in a strong position get into the round of 16. Should Team USA advance, they would face one of the top two teams in Group A, which includes the Netherlands, Ecuador, Senegal and host country Qatar. But a defeat by England could end those hopes.
How much does the story influence this matchup?
The USA and England have developed a healthy – and sometimes even memorable – football rivalry over the years. Although the US players are themselves dubbed the “underdogs” at this World Cup, American fans know the team has the potential to cause upsets against the sport’s giants, having beaten Brazil at the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup and Portugal at the World Cup 2002, and of course England in 1950.
When the US defeated the Three Lions in Brazil 72 years ago, the news barely registered at home, according to Geoffrey Douglas, the author of the 1996 book The game of her life, which chronicled the history of the game and those who participated in it. When the players returned home after being eliminated from the competition, they found that “nobody knew anything about it,” Douglas tells TIME, noting that football as a sport “just wasn’t on the radar” of games as popular as it is Baseball and soccer were. It wasn’t until decades later – as football’s prominence grew and the story of the 1950 World Cup was remembered in popular culture, including in a 2005 film based on Douglas’ book – that Americans began to become more aware of their country’s history will upset.
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As much as the US side will feel they have something to prove, England will look to this game as crucial to victory in their quest for World Cup glory. After all, the Three Lions have endured some heartbreaking defeats in their recent international competitions, including losing to Italy on penalties during last year’s EURO final and losing in the semifinals to Croatia during the 2018 World Cup. The pressure to finally make it happen football is coming homeas the popular rallying cry of England fans goes, a nod to the invention of the country Americans call football will weigh heavily on Southgate’s team.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of both teams?
Southgate’s England squad have often been criticized for being overly defensive and overly cautious, a notion which Monday’s 6-2 result against Iran could help dispel. The US team has the opposite problem as they lack solid defense in defence.
But the England team are widely regarded as favorites to win this game, and with good reason. England have enjoyed a resurgence under Southgate, helped in part by a young but internationally experienced squad, including a number of rising stars such as 21-year-old striker Bukayo Saka.
England’s Bukayo Saka celebrates after the final whistle after scoring two of the Three Lions’ six goals against Iran. Coach Gareth Southgate walks in the background at Chalifa International Stadium in Qatar, November 21, 2022.
Robert Michael – picture-alliance/dpa/AP
Even with their younger players, England have one of the most internationally experienced sides at this tournament – their captain Harry Kane was the top scorer at the 2018 World Cup. On the other hand, the USA have one of the youngest teams with an average age of 25 after Ghana. The youth of American players, on the other hand, could be seen as an asset when it comes to the energy and intensity they can bring to games, it can also be seen as a disadvantage: Team USA’s absence from the 2018 competition means the roster is almost has no Worlds experience aside from 2014 veteran DeAndre Yedlin.
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Nonetheless, the current US roster draws players from some of the world’s best professional teams, including those competing in Europe’s toughest leagues. “We’ve never had a team with so many players who have played at such a high level in their club teams,” says Djorn Buchholz, executive director of the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Texas, “and not only sit on the bench, but start .”
How important is this World Cup for the USA?
While Team USA is busy with the upcoming World Cup, they will no doubt also be thinking about 2026 when the USA is set to host the competition alongside neighbors Mexico and Canada.
“As long as they stay healthy and can play at a high level, they will have a World Cup behind them in 2026,” says Buchholz. “And I think that’s going to be incredibly beneficial for us in 2026.”
An older, more experienced US team, bolstered by home advantage, could become a serious contender in four years’ time – one with the potential to take on not just England but any national team. At least that’s what fans like Buchholz hope. After all, miracles can happen.
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