Gregg Berhalter’s men chose not to have a warm-up friendly, so they come into this tournament in indifferent form after failing to win any of their last three internationals, scoring just once in the process.
After missing out in 2018, the USA return to the FIFA World Cup stage in Qatar. Automatic qualification for the finals was secured by the skin of their teeth, finishing above Costa Rica on goal difference alone to seal their place. But now they have made it through, the Stars and Stripes could be filled with confidence considering their previous good record at the World Cup, progressing out of their group in four of their last seven tournaments. Gregg Berhalter’s men chose not to have a warm-up friendly, so they come into this tournament in indifferent form after failing to win any of their last three internationals, scoring just once in the process.
Perhaps facing Wales will increase morale, though, considering the USA have never lost an H2H against their opponents. Still, they also have a miserable recent record at the World Cup against European opposition, failing to win any of their last nine meetings.
It’s a big day for Robert Page, who will become the first manager to lead Wales into a World Cup since Jimmy Murphy back in 1958, as the Dragons embark on just their second-ever finals appearance. The Red Wall helped roar them through two nerve-crunching play-off games that saw the Welsh dispatch Austria and Ukraine to book their ticket to Qatar. They may well be confident of progressing from their group after doing so in both the 2016 and 2020 UEFA European Championships. Wales also reached the knockout stages in their only previous appearance at the World Cup in 1958, winning a play-off with Hungary to reach the quarter-finals.
Standing in their way back then were eventual winners Brazil, with match-winner and footballing legend Pelé the last player to score against the Dragons in this tournament, so replicating the spirit of 58’ and their run to the knockout phase will be in the forefront of Welsh minds after such a long absence from the globe’s biggest football competition.
Nicknamed Captain America, Christian Pulisic will be front and centre of the USA’s efforts to qualify as he makes his debut at the World Cup finals. He boasts an impressive return of 19 direct goal contributions from 23 qualifiers. Also, his country’s spearhead, Wales’ Gareth Bale, warmed up for this tournament with a breathtaking equaliser in the MLS Cup finals, and he also netted two of Wales’ three goals in the play-offs. Wales have lost just one of their last seven meetings with non-European sides, conceding just two goals across that run. The first player to score a hat-trick at the World Cup finals was the USA’s Bert Patenaude in 1930 against Paraguay.