Beware, USA: England rout Iran in World Cup opener


D.C. United head coach Wayne Rooney made headlines last week when predicting England will rout the US men’s national team, 4-0, at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Perhaps the Three Lions’ all-time leading scorer was onto something.

England demolished Iran, 6-2, in Monday’s Group B opener, a statement display from head coach Gareth Southgate’s team. Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka had a brace and Tottenham striker Harry Kane assisted twice, while Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham showed why he’s one of the world’s top teenage talents.

The USMNT, who face Wales later on Monday, will meet England on Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving – from Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar (2 pm ET | FOX Telemundo).

Ahead of that game, Gregg Berhalter said he considers England “one of the favorites of the World Cup,” even though they entered the tournament winless in six matches. The USMNT head coach has also remarked his team “can beat anyone” on their day.

World Cup history

The Yanks and Three Lions have met twice before in a World Cup, drawing 1-1 at South Africa 2010. Clint Dempsey’s equalizer canceled out an early tally from former LA Galaxy midfielder Steve Gerrard, the ex-Seattle Sounders FC and New England Revolution forward capitalizing on a howler from goalkeeper Rob Green.

Rooney went the full 90 in that match and recognizes the dangers the USMNT can pose, irrespective of a strong start in Qatar.

“You have to be professional and not underestimate your opposition or be complacent,” the Manchester United legend said. “We felt we'd go into that game and win it comfortably and we paid the price for that. Obviously the US made it difficult for us, put bodies behind the ball and defended, hoped to nick a goal.”

Back at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, the US memorably beat England 1-0 behind Joe Gaetjens' goal.

Familiar foes

The US will soon attempt a similar feat, or perhaps instill more daring tactics, and this time carry ample familiarity with England’s players. Just ask Leeds United midfielder Tyler Adams, one of eight USMNT players either in the Premier League or Championship. Other highlights in that regard are Chelsea forward Christian Pulisic and Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Turner.

“I've come against a lot of those players now and the quality that they have, playing for some of the biggest teams in the world, it will be an exciting matchup,” said Adams, USMNT captain and a New York Red Bulls homegrown product.

The US may derive confidence from seeing the Group B favorites allow two goals against Iran, who are led by former NY/NJ MetroStars (now the Red Bulls) manager Carlos Queiroz.

Then again, England are coming off a semifinal appearance at the Russia 2018 World Cup and were finalists at the 2020 European Championship as well. And they entered this tournament at No. 5 in FIFA’s World Rankings, fully capable of lifting the trophy on Dec. 18 at Lusail Stadium.

As fearless as this new-generation USMNT may be, entering Qatar 2022 with the second-youngest squad, there’s reason for concern after England’s roaring start. Friday’s game may just end up deciding who wins Group B, too, and flies into the knockout stages.