USMNT vs. Wales: Can the golden generation shine on the world stage?


When the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) takes the field in Qatar on Monday, it will appear in a men’s World Cup for the first time since 2014.

In the eight and a half years since then, soccer has overtaken ice hockey to become the fourth most watched sport in the country, with 13% of respondents marking it as their favorite sport, according to a survey conducted by Statista in 2022, up from 4. % in 2013, according to a Gallup poll.

So far, the United States has been unable to translate this newfound popularity at home onto the world stage, although the core of its “golden generation” has shown its potential to outperform its predecessors and has received the vote of presidential confidence before his inaugural party. against Wales

“I know you’re the underdog, but you’ve got some of the best players in the world on your team and you’re representing this country and I know you’re going to play your heart out, so we’re going to surprise them all,” President Joe Biden told the players in a call

The USMNT were one of the last teams to book their ticket to Qatar, advancing through the qualifying stages, perhaps haunted by their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup with the defeat against Trinidad and Tobago in October 2017.

Hired as coach in 2018 after that disappointment, Gregg Berhalter’s reign will be defined by his squad’s performance in Qatar, and whether he can match his round-of-16 performances at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, or even his performance in 2002 when he reached the quarter-finals.

Gregg Berhalter was part of the US team that reached the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup.

His side sealed their place in the tournament after a 5-1 win against Panama, with a hat-trick from their talisman, the qualification’s top scorer and star player Christian Pulisic, who will be at the heart of the hopes of the ‘USMNT at the World Cup.

In 2021, he won the Champions League with his club Chelsea, becoming the first American to play in a Champions League final and the second to win it.

The 26-year-old’s stay at Chelsea, however, has been hampered by a string of injuries and he has struggled for games of late.

Injuries have hampered the cohesion of the USMNT. Pulisic and other key members of the team – forward Gio Reyna, midfielders Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, as well as defender Sergiño Dest – have played together in the same game just once, according to ESPN.

It’s indicative of the team’s relatively unproven nature, exacerbated by its youth which is, in many ways, its defining characteristic.

The 26-man squad will have an average age of 25 years and 175 days when they play Wales, while the squad that qualified for the tournament was even younger with an average age of 23 to the starting lineups of their qualifying matches.

Christian Pulisic playing against Morocco in June.

Only one player, defender DeAndre Yedlin, has previous World Cup experience.

Despite being a team with no World Cup experience, they have often shown their talent, using a high-tempo transition game that showcases their dynamism and athletic midfield.

Many of their players ply their trade in some of the world’s most competitive leagues: 14 play for teams in the world’s top five leagues in England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France, and five compete in the Champions League in this year.

Competing in the bigger leagues, however, means that playing time is limited. Starting goalkeeper Matt Turner, for example, plays for Arsenal but has been on the bench for much of this season.

Such a young team is more likely to peak at the next World Cup, held jointly in the United States, Canada and Mexico, but may still have a 48% chance of reaching the last 16 in Qatar, according to the model Nielsen’s Gracenote statistic.

The USMNT’s group composition is deceptively difficult and offers a chance to advance to the round of 16, as they face England, Iran and Wales, with the teams that finish first and second qualifying for the round of 16 end

England, who reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, are heavily favored to finish first, but with all four teams ranked in the top 20 of the FIFA world rankings, any result is possible.

The USMNT sit above Wales and Iran, although both teams contain generational talent, with Gareth Bale spearheading the Welsh attack and an unprecedented number of Iranian players competing in Europe.

“I was excited,” McKennie said after the draw, according to The Athletic. “You want to play the best of the best. You want to challenge yourself. I can’t think of a better time to do that than now.

“As a team that’s still building and growing together, these are games we’re going to have to learn to win, so it’s an exciting group. The guys are going to be as excited as I am, I’m going to take it back, I’m going to say ‘men’, they’re men now, but we’re definitely excited.”

Gregg Berhalter leads a USMNT training session in Qatar.

The USMNT will face Wales first, playing in their first World Cup since 1958.

“I think, at least for the American media, I think Wales is underrated,” Berhalter told reporters. “When I look at their team, it’s basically a Premier League team.”

As well as Bale, the Welsh side have former Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, along with promising youngsters Neco Williams and Brennan Johnson, who present a possible obstacle. for the USMNT.

Four days later, the USMNT will play England, who reached the World Cup semifinal and Euro final in the past four years, but finished bottom of their group in this year’s Nations League.

Still, England have a tried and tested method in major tournaments under Gareth Southgate and will be a tough opponent.

The USMNT drew 1-1 with England at the 2010 World Cup.

Finally, the USMNT will face Iran, its geopolitical rival with whom it has had no formal diplomatic relations since April 1980.

The two countries last played each other at a World Cup in 1998, when Iranian players wore white roses, a symbol of peace, onto the pitch and defeated the USMNT 2-1.

Iran has never reached the knockout stages of a World Cup and is playing amid domestic turmoil following mass protests and a violent response by Iranian security forces.

If the USMNT can advance out of their group, they will meet a team from Group A – either Qatar, Ecuador, the Netherlands or Senegal – in the Round of 16.

The USMNT’s first World Cup game is against Wales on November 21 at 2:00 PM ET, before playing England on November 25 at 2:00 PM ET and Iran on November 29 November at 2:00 PM ET.

All their matches will be televised live by FOX Sports in the US.


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