Under-pressure Gareth Southgate gets show of support from USA boss, who says it’s ‘scary’ thinking about playing England
OPINION may be turning on Gareth Southgate at home but for those preparing to face his side in Qatar, England still carry a huge fear factor.
USA coach Gregg Berhalter, whose side face the Three Lions in the second of three group stage games this winter, is confident his squad can beat anyone at the World Cup but admits England are still a “scary” prospect.
After a dismal summer continued into this month’s final games before England head off to the Middle East in November, pressure on Southgate is ramping up.
Fans are quickly losing faith that the Three Lions can make a big impact in the knockout stages, despite reaching the Euro 2020 final and the last four in Russia four years ago.
But those outside the England bubble see things differently, and when asked what sort of challenge England pose, Berhalter said: “Scary… scary thinking about how we’re going to beat them. When he [Southgate] has his best team, he performs well with them.
“They came in fourth and last World Cup, they came in second in the European Championship.
“The depth chart is crazy. Every international manager would want England’s squad just because of how deep they are.
“You can go in some positions, you can go five or six deep, and be happy with the player in that position. It’s unbelievable looking at their right backs.
“I think that [poor form] was a blip on the radar. They’re going to be one of the favourites to win the World Cup – if not the favourite.”
One main criticism of Southgate heading into the World Cup is that the England boss is far too cautious and doesn’t allow his brightest talent the chance to shine – but there again Berhalter has a different view.
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He said: “We all agree they have a squad that can win the World Cup.
“Gareth has done a great job of helping the players cope with that pressure, actually using the jersey as a cape rather than a straitjacket and really giving them the freedom to play on the field.
“Giving them the idea that they can represent their country in a positive way and make the country proud.”
Despite their tag as one of the favourites heading into the winter World Cup, Three Lions fans will still feel a certain shudder ahead of the USA meeting.
It was the opening game of the 2010 World Cup when Rob Green’s howler cancelled out Steven Gerrard’s goal and led to a limp opener against the States.
England are a much better side now, but so are the Americans.
Their top talent is spread across the globe, forged in the ever improving Major League Soccer before moving on to some of the biggest clubs in Europe.
Berhalter can call on the likes of Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie or Borussia Dortmund’s Giovanni Reyna in Qatar.
Their improvement, ahead of a home World Cup in 2026, means this emerging footballing power heads to the tournament confident they can take anyone on.
Berhalter said: “We’re looking at this in two distinct tournaments. It’s not one World Cup, it’s basically two World Cups for us.
“The first World Cup is made up of four teams and the top two teams advance.
“What I know about our group is if we can get to the knockout phase, we believe we have a team that on any given day can beat anyone in the world.
“You don’t have to be the best team in the world to win the World Cup. You just have to be better than your opponent on that given day.”
While Berhalter describes England as a “scary” prospect, the rise of American players in the Premier League will be a help to the USA coach.
Tyler Adams and Brendan Aaronson are both playing under Jesse Marsch at Leeds United, with Pulisic, Antonee Robinson, Chris Richards, Tim Ream and Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Turner also getting a close look at Southgate’s squad on a weekly basis.
Berhalter said: “It helps with that insight and with that idea that they’re familiar with the players.
“When you think about Christian, he’s teammates with a bunch of the players.
“The familiarity really helps. It helps with the intimidation factor for us.”
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