World Cup Preview: USA & England Headline an Important Black Friday

Grab your leftover turkey and a giant cup of coffee (and possibly some Bailey’s to go along with it) because Black Friday’s slate of World Cup matches is set to be a day of massive repercussions for both Groups A and B. The tournament has already seen two giant upsets from Saudi Arabia toppling Argentina and Japan defeating Germany, and considering those two winners also caused the USMNT woes in their last friendlies, the American draw against Wales on day two doesn’t feel quite as terrible anymore.

Nevertheless, the headline match of the day is going to be the final one of the day between Group B’s USA and England. After giving away a costly penalty against the Welsh that wiped away a potential win, the American side had to boldly take the group into their own hands and not rely on help otherwise. Meanwhile in group A, Ecuador and the Netherlands will face off looking to top the quartet while Senegal will be trying to rebound against a weak Qatari side after a previous hard-fought battle against the Dutch.

Here’s a look ahead at the battles of Black Friday of the 2022 World Cup:

Wales vs Iran — 5 am

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The Matchup

If you’re a USMNT fan, you simply want Iran to scrap a result out of this one. In theory, every team in Group B should snag a full 3 points against Iran, but it’s worth remembering that the “minnow” of the group still bagged two goals against England (while getting obliterated in the process). Additionally, the first few days of this tournament have shown us that “in theory” doesn’t always go to plan. The lone Iranian goalscorer was Mehdi Taremi, who plays for Porto and is linked to a possible move to Milan. Wales will look to lock him down and do their part to get Gareth Bale more involved in the attack than the lone penalty he scored against the USA. However, if Iran isn’t careful then Wales will be able to once again sneak 6’5″ Bournemouth striker Kieffer Moore back onto the pitch, who played a heavy part in dividing the American’s attention in the last match which helped lead to the late penalty and equalizer.

Player to Watch: Kieffer Moore

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The likely start up top for Wales will always be Gareth Bale, but if the Dragons find a need to push for a late goal, don’t be surprised to see the giant show back up. If so, Iran will need a tactical adjustment that the United States sorely lacked.

Qatar vs Senegal — 8 am

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The Matchup

Qatar simply doesn’t have much to offer in this tournament. The opening match against Ecuador saw them thoroughly outplayed, and although the score wasn’t a blowout, the Qatari side admittedly looked like a semi-pro squad. Senegal, on the other hand, is coming off a very tough loss on their opening day from a match where they looked genuinely the better site at times, even without star Sadio Mane. Senegal should put another nail in the coffin for the host nation quite handily, and forward Ismalia Sarr will look to play the role of hammer.

Player to Watch: Ismalia Sarr

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Sarr found himself in some very opportune spaces against the Netherlands, but Qatar simply doesn’t have the defense to stop him. Expect him to get involved heavily from the moment he steps on the pitch, because a win here puts them in a very favorable position to fight their way out of the group.

Netherlands vs. Ecuador — 11 am

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The Matchup

This one is interesting, to say the least. Ecuador is coming off a morale-boosting opening day win, while the Netherlands had their hands full in their previous win over Senegal. Ecuador’s talent is often glossed over at face value, but Moises Caicedo and a smorgasbord of Los Angeles talent will have something to say to fight for the top of Group A. Virgil van Dijk and Frenkie de Jong could prove too much for the Latin Americans, though, if they bring a better form than they did against Senegal. In theory (once again, with a grain of salt) the Dutch should be able to take this one, but it probably won’t be a cakewalk.

Player to Watch: Moises Caicedo

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Brighton’s Moises Caicedo will be an integral part of Ecuador’s chances of getting a result out of this one. Specifically, he’s going to have help orchestrate the counterattacks that would catch the Dutch off guard.

United States vs. England — 2 p.m

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The Matchup

Hold on to your stuffing. This match is understandably massive, but even more so now that the US and Wales drew their first game. England entered the tournament with a splash, defeating Iran 6-2. At face value that doesn’t bode well for the Americans, but the fact of the matter is a struggling Iran still found a way to net two on one of the premier teams of the tournament. If Berhalter’s defense can shore up their efforts and hold the multitalented English attack at bay, it greatly increases the United States’ chances to snag a point or more from this one.

Player to Watch: Gio Reyna

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There was clearly an argument to bring Gio Reyna in as a sub against Wales, but he sat unused for the full 90 minutes. The US never produced much of a threat directly through the middle, instead opting to play the ball vertically by sending it out wide to Jedi Robinson and using Pulisic as the jack of all trades. Reyna needs to get involved in this match to truly bump the attack up a notch in his fearlessness to take on any player 1v1.

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