Football

USA focused on ‘knockout game’ vs. Iran after England draw

USA focused on ‘knockout game’ vs.  Iran after England draw
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AL KHOR, Qatar — United States midfielder Christian Pulisic said he hoped his side’s performance in a 0-0 draw with Group B favorites England « made a lot of people proud » back in the US, but also acknowledged that he and his teammates have « got a lot of work left to do. »

The result leaves the US in third place in Group B, two points behind leaders England and a point behind Iran, who defeated Wales 2-0 earlier on Friday. The US faces Iran in its group stage finale on Tuesday.

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It was a game where England had more possessions, but the US created the better chances, with Pulisic rattling the bar with a shot in the first half. England did put the Americans under pressure at times in the second half, but the US defense, ably marshaled by Tim Ream, held firm.

« A draw’s not the worst thing, but I felt like there were stretches of where we showed confidence and had a lot of the play, and created chances, and even could have won the game » Pulisic said.

« But all in all, I thought we managed it quite well. »

The game had been hyped as an opportunity for the US to show it could go toe-to-toe with one of the game’s heavyweights. Pulisic feels the US did that to a degree, but he knows reaching the knockout rounds will do even more to win over new fans.

« Everyone back home watching, I hope we made a lot of people proud, » he said. « But the job isn’t even close to done, so we’ve got a lot of work left to do. »

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US manager Gregg Berhalter echoed many of Pulisic’s sentiments, saying his side delivered a « disciplined performance. »

The US now goes into its final group game with Iran knowing it needs a win to advance to the World Cup knockout stages for the fifth time since 1994.

« The final product still could be better… I’m overall pleased with the performance of the group, most importantly the belief of this group because that never wavered, » Berhalter said.

« What I saw pre-game was a team that was extremely focused on getting results. In the end, it sets up our first knockout game of this World Cup and that’s going to be a focus of ours.

« We played with a ton of spirit but we’re going to have to be up for it [against Iran]. We want a chance to advance… We know it’s going to be a difficult game, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity. »

Of concern for the US is that it is still struggling to make the most of its chances, with Weston McKennie missing a wide open opportunity in the first half.

Berhalter said he was happy with the positions his team got into, but noted, « It’s hard to score goals. »

Information from Reuters was used in this report.

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