In their penultimate match of a successful year, England can be expected to record victory over a young United States side at Wembley on Thursday (20:00 GMT, live on Sky 1 / Sky Sports Main Event).
Few would have expected England to go as far as they did in the World Cup in Russia, but a run to the final four, ended by defeat in extra-time to Croatia, showed the potential of a generation who again underlined that promise with a 3-2 win away to Spain last month.
That performance showed what England could be capable of if they continue to develop as a team under the command of Gareth Southgate. Their World Cup run was based upon solid organisation, efficient set-pieces and the occasional spark of combination play, but the victory over Spain was achieved in more cohesive fashion.
England disrupted Spain’s build-up play with an occasional high press and were swift and incisive in transitioning forward once possession was won. The pace of Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford either side of Harry Kane up front was a potent threat that produced all three goals – two for Sterling and one for Rashford, with two assists for Kane.
After utilising three central defenders for the large majority of his time at the helm, including through the World Cup, Southgate switched to a 4-3-3 for last month’s 0-0 draw away to Croatia and the win over Spain. He felt that opponents were finding ways to neutralise his wing-backs whilst also enjoying numerical superiority in the centre of the pitch, making it hard for England to control the flow of their matches or make regular progress forward.
The signs from those two matches are that it will be a positive change that brings a better balance to the side and makes it easier to cause opponents damage in open play. That theory will be tested on Thursday and again at home to Croatia on Sunday, in England’s final match of the UEFA Nations League group stage.
Southgate’s squad for the two fixtures features a few alterations from last month’s group, with Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard returning from injury, Michael Keane brought back into the fold, and the Leicester pair of Harry Maguire and James Maddison missing out through injury. Callum Wilson has been rewarded for his excellent form with Bournemouth with his first call-up, while Wayne Rooney returns for an international send off.
It is somewhat fitting that Rooney’s 120th and final cap for England comes against the United States, where he now plies his trade for DC United. When he enters the pitch for his second-half runout he will likely face off against at least one of the Columbus Crew side who knocked his team out of the MLS playoffs in the form of midfielder Will Trapp.
Trapp has been one of the poster boys of the generational turnover in the US squad following their failure to qualify for the World Cup. He has been involved in all nine of their friendly internationals this calendar year as part of a young group that interim coach Dave Sarachan has sought to form in order to give his permanent successor a solid base to work from.
Over two-thirds of the squad that Sarachan has selected for this month’s matches against England and Italy have 10 or less caps to their name, while the average age of the group stands at just over 23 years old. There are a good number of players in their early to mid-twenties, in addition to talented players in or just out of their teenage years like Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent and Timothy Weah.
The US have secured some credible results this year, including draws with France and Peru and victory over Mexico. Their inexperience has been evident at times, such as in their 2-4 defeat against Colombia last month. England have suffered the odd embarrassment against them over the years – notably in their first-ever meeting, a 1-0 win for USA at the 1950 World Cup – but can be expected to come out on top on Thursday.
Our Preview’s England vs. United States Betting Tips Verdict
England are 1/4 to win this with the layers but there could still be a good bet available on the red-hot favourites:
- Bet on “England to win both halves” @ 17/10 only with Unibet.