DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Their head-to-head record at the World Cup, England coach Gareth Southgate duly noted, is in favor of the United States.
That’s right. The Americans beat England 1-0 at the 1950 World Cup and the teams played to a 1-1 draw in 2010.
Their next match is coming Friday in Qatar, and Southgate told his players to go out and finally get one back.
“Have we ever beaten the States in a major tournament?” Southgate asked during his pre-match news conference. “No, I didn’t think so. So tomorrow we have to try to make history.”
Southgate also poked fun at England’s reputation for building up expectations as it searches for its first World Cup title since its only tournament win in 1966.
“We are good at that,” Southgate said. “We are good at talking highly of ourselves as a nation on the basis of very little evidence. So what we’ve got to do is perform on the field. We know we will play a highly motivated team.
“But we’ve got huge respect for our opponent. We know a lot of the players from our league. We’ve got to be at our best. The risk is we think because we’ve played well the other day we can just go through to the next game.”
The England team should get a boost from having striker Harry Kane available for the Group B match. Kane, who was the leading scorer at the 2018 World Cup, didn’t score in the team’s opening 6-2 rout of Iran but he did injure his left ankle.
“Harry’s good,” Southgate said. “It would be a brave decision to leave him out of the starting (lineup).”
England should also have Harry Maguire back after the defender left the opening match with blurred vision.
At the moment, he's trying to keep his eyes focused on the World Cup and not the upheaval back at Manchester United.
“I’m here with England,” the defender said. “I’m playing at a World Cup — the greatest tournament in the world. So for me to keep distractions away has been easy. I’m fully focused on winning each game I play for my country."
A lot has happened back at his club since Maguire flew out to Qatar with the rest of the England squad. Teammate Cristiano Ronaldo had his contract terminated following an explosive interview in which he criticized manager Erik ten Hag, the club’s owners and some players. That was quickly followed by the news that the Glazer family is prepared to put United up for sale as it seeks outside investment.
“Yeah, there’s been obviously a lot of talk going off around the club at the moment," Maguire said, "but I’ve been fully focused on England and that’s my priority.”
Maguire, whose poor form with United led to him being dropped by Ten Hag, has been a key figure in England’s success at its last two tournaments — reaching the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup and the final of last year’s European Championship, which it lost in a penalty shootout against Italy.
“Obviously being picked for your country is a huge privilege,” said Maguire, who is set to make his 50th appearance for the national team against the United States. “It’s the pinnacle of anybody’s footballing career to play at major tournaments for your country, World Cups especially. It’s the biggest tournament in the world."
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
James Robson, The Associated Press