England go into their second World Cup game against the United States on Friday knowing victory would secure a place in the last 16, while the Netherlands could also qualify for the knockout stage. Gareth Southgate’s men kicked off their campaign with a 6-2 rout of Iran who take on Wales in the Group B opener on Friday. Whatever the outcome of this match, England will progress by beating the Americans, but will have to overcome a talented young team and the weight of history.
The United States eliminated England from the 1950 tournament with one of the biggest shocks of the World Cups and in 2010 held a star side to a 1-1 draw best remembered for a howl from England goalkeeper Rob Green.
“Have we ever beaten the United States at a World Cup? No. Tomorrow we have to try to make history,” Southgate said in a pre-match press conference.
“We are good at speaking highly of ourselves as a nation on very little evidence. We know that we will face a very motivated team. I don’t think we will underestimate the United States at all.
England are still in contention for a first major tournament title in 56 years after losing last year’s European Championship final to Italy on penalties.
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They did, however, receive a boost ahead of the game against the United States as captain Harry Kane was declared fit despite suffering an ankle injury against Iran.
Carlos Queiroz’s Iran will be eliminated if they lose to Wales, who have drawn with the United States.
Striker Mehdi Taremi, who scored both of his goals against England, has denied the team came under pressure from the Iranian government after they opted out of singing the national anthem before their first game.
“I don’t like to talk about political issues but we are under no pressure,” he said.
Wales could sit on the brink of qualification ahead of a three-point encounter with neighbors England in their first World Cup since losing to Pele’s Brazil in the quarter-finals of 1958.
“They’re a tough team and they’re at the World Cup for a reason,” skipper Gareth Bale, who scored a late penalty against the United States, said of Iran.
– Dutch targeting title –
Louis van Gaal’s Dutch side could also progress from Group A with a win against Ecuador, but hosts Qatar would need to draw against Senegal.
The Oranje claimed a 2-0 success against the African champions in their first outing with late goals from in-form youngsters Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen.
The Netherlands, three-time finalists, are contesting the World Cup for the first time since finishing third under Van Gaal in 2014.
“We are here to become world champions,” Van Gaal said on the eve of the match.
Qatar are desperate for an answer after suffering a 2-0 loss to Ecuador in the tournament’s curtain-raiser which saw the majority of the crowd leave before the final whistle.
Another defeat could see the Asian Cup holders become the second home side to crash out in the group stage, after South Africa in 2010.
“We hope that now we are free from all the pressure we had in the opening match,” said Qatar coach Felix Sanchez. “Hopefully we can compete and bring our ‘A Game’.”
On Thursday, Cristiano Ronaldo became the first man to score in five World Cups with a controversial penalty in Portugal’s 3-2 win over Ghana, while favorites Brazil got off to a flying start by beating Serbia.
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