USA Vs. Wales World Cup 2022: 5 Things To Know About Group B Match
The U.S. men’s national soccer team begins its World Cup 2022 campaign against Wales on Monday, Nov. 21.
The match, which follows the Group B opener earlier in the day between England and Iran, will take place at 10pm local time in Qatar. For viewers in the US, that’s 2pm Eastern Time (EST), 1pm Central Time (CST) and 11am Pacific Time (PST).
Here are five things to know about the match and a prediction for how it will finish.
Both teams are likely playing for second place
According to FIFA’s world rankings, Group B is the tightest at the 2022 World Cup. It is the only one of the eight groups in which all four teams are considered in the world’s top 20. England is favorite to win the group ahead of the USMNT, but Wales and Iran are well-organized sides that shouldn’t be written off.
A second-place finish would mean a Round of 16 match with the winners of Group A (expected to be Netherlands). That tough draw is one of the reasons this young and exciting USMNT will not win this year’s World Cup. But the U.S. and Wales will be confident about at least progressing out of the group and both have a point to prove at this finals. Wales is in its first World Cup finals for 64 years. While the USMNT failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament, finishing fifth in its group behind Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Honduras.
The USMNT will have to break down Wales
These teams have contrasting styles of play. The USMNT likes to keep possession of the ball and patiently attempt to create space, especially down the wings. Scoring goals, though, can be a problem with a key weakness of the team its lack of a free-scoring striker.
Wales will probably be happy for the USMNT to have the majority of possession. Manager Rob Page favors a counter-attacking style for his team and likes to soak up pressure before hitting opponents on the break. English Premier League duo Dan James (Fulham) and Brennan Johnson (Nottingham Forest) are direct forwards with the pace to hurt teams during counters. The USMNT’s defenders will also have to keep an eye on six-foot-five-inch striker Kieffer Moore, who is a danger from set pieces.
The Wales captain may be 33 and lacking match practice, but he has proved he is a player who can shine on the biggest occasions. Bale only started two matches for MLS side Los Angeles FC but came off the bench to score a last-minute equalizer in extra time before his side won the MLS Cup earlier this month. For Real Madrid, he twice scored in the Champions League final, including a stunning bicycle kick.
Bale also loves playing for Wales. He says it is a dream to be representing his country at a World Cup and insists he is fit for the opening match. "I'm right where I want to be - I'm here! I'm ready to go," he told a pre-match press conference. He is not as devastating a player as he once was, but Bale is still a very skillful forward and a talisman for Wales. He also has a habit of scoring freekicks and will claim any in range of the U.S. goal.
It is still possible for a country to win a World Cup even if it loses its opening match (see Spain, 2010). Clearly, a defeat for the USMNT or Wales in its opening match would be a big blow, but a draw wouldn’t be a disaster. With England expected to beat Iran, a draw would leave both the USMNT and Wales needing to beat Iran and potentially get at least a draw with England to progress.
The historical head-to-head favors the U.S. but it’s a small sample. The two teams have only played each other twice, both friendly matches. Wales failed to score both times, with the USMNT winning 2-0 in 2003 and a 0-0 draw in 2020.
Tyler Adams can help win the midfield battle
Adams is a natural leader who will captain the USMNT at the World Cup. He will be an important player in central midfield and asked to drive the team forward while keeping its shape without the ball. Against Wales, he will likely be up against the experienced but past-his-best Aaron Ramsey. Joe Allen, another veteran who has an important role in the Wales team, will not play after being ruled out through injury.
Without the control Allen brings, Adams has an opportunity to dominate the midfield in this match. With players like Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah alongside him, he can bring energy and tough tackling to the USMNT midfield. He will need to combine his impressive form for Leeds United with a cool head. Adams was sent off in Leeds’ last match at Tottenham Hotspur and the USMNT cannot afford to lose him to suspension at the World Cup.
Opening group matches at the World Cup are often cagey affairs and this could easily be a draw. But I think the USMNT will sneak it, 2-1.