By Armstrong Vaz
Al Rayyan (Qatar), Nov 26 (IANS): A lackluster England laboured to a drab draw against the US but kept their qualification hopes for the FIFA World Cup knockout stage alive.
On Friday evening at the Ali Bin Ali Stadium in Qatar, the 90-minute dual ended without a goal being scored. A win for England would have meant qualification to the knockout stage and the first team to seal the last 16 spot.
A lot was expected from England, especially after their 6-2 drubbing of Iran, in their first Group A match. But the Three Lions were far from their best for long periods as they failed to match the energy and intensity which they displayed in abundant quantity in their first match.
Instead, the US were bolder and had much better chances and Gareth Southgate's side were second best. It was the US which called the shots throughout the match and were the better side, creating more chances and even hitting the bar once.
England were unimpressive and rode their luck when Weston McKennie missed an easy chance and Christian Pulisic struck the bar in the first half. Pulisic came closest to a breakthrough when the forward struck the crossbar with a shot from the left of the box in the 33rd minute.
Pulisic saw another attempt deflect marginally wide in the second half, while midfielder Mckennie twice aimed too high from promising positions.
At the other end, Mason Mount brought a fine save from the US goalkeeper Matt Turner just before the break and that was the closest that the Englishman got in scoring a goal against the US as they missed the attacking verve of their opening game.
The Three Lions, famously beaten by the US at the 1950 World Cup, but instead will be happy to come away with a draw given the chances.
With Friday's draw, the US extended their unbeaten World Cup record against England to three matches, having beaten up England at the 1950 World Cup.
England were unchanged from the 6-2 thrashing of Iran in their opening game while Haji Wright, the only new name in the starting line-up from the earlier match, which took the field against Wales.
The drawn result means England, who are on four points, have good chances to qualify for the next round, they'll only miss out if Wales trounce them by four goals next Tuesday. Iran after their 2-0 win over Wales on Friday now have four points, while Wales have just a point from two outings.
On Tuesday, England meet Wales, a Britain derby and the US face Iran, which is one of the most awaited match of the World Cup on account of the political implications.
"We didn't have the same zip (as against Iran) but that will happen. This is tournament football. We are not going to sweep through everybody without having nights like that where you have to show different qualities to get a result," England manager Gareth Southgate said.
"Our two centre-backs with the ball were absolutely outstanding. They controlled the game. I don't think people appreciate how good they are. And they both defended their box brilliantly. Silver medal was a point because it puts us in a really strong position. If we win our last game, we'll win the group," he added.