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England vs USA: Talking points ahead of Group B clash at World Cup

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England will qualify for the knockout stage of the World Cup if they beat the United States on Friday.

Ahead of the Group B clash in Al Khor, PA news agency takes a look at five of the main talking points.

Winning and in the last 16

After traveling to Qatar amid a six-game winless streak, Monday’s thrilling 6-2 win over Iran was England’s best ever start to a tournament major and equaled his highest scoring World Cup match. Gareth Southgate’s men are now looking for more of the same and win their first two group games as they did in 2018, meaning they will seal their progress to the last 16 with the clash against Wales to spare.

Kane can leave

England hearts were in their mouths when Harry Kane went down clutching his right foot against Iran after a poor challenge early in the second half. The fact that he continued until the 75th minute and Southgate played down the issue allayed concerns, only for him to emerge the next day he needed a CT scan. There was a collective sigh of relief for England as Kane was given the green light to train and now the 2018 Golden Boot winner will be looking to open his account at this World Cup after Southgate all but confirmed that would start.

Stay with a winning team?

Kane’s availability is a huge boost for Southgate, who must weigh the rigors of tournament football amid a turbulent season with the need to qualify from the group. Harry Maguire is fit again after facing Iran feeling unwell and will earn his 50th cap, while Kyle Walker is hoping to make his first appearance after recovering from groin surgery in October. Southgate was annoyed by the sloppy aspects of England’s play in the opener and has some decisions to make as he tries to reach the new levels he clamored for on Monday.

USA looking to tame lions at another World Cup

England will be looking to finally beat the United States on the world stage at the third attempt. A mistake by Robert Green saw their meeting at the end of the 2010 World Cup 1-1, but that was nothing compared to 1950 when the amateur Americans won a superb 1-0 victory in Brazil. Gregg Berhalter’s young squad boast some talented players, with the Premier League home to key men like Christian Pulisic, Brenden Aaronson and captain Tyler Adams. After being held 1-1 by Wales on Monday, the United States are desperate for another memorable result against England.

Officials focus

Southgate expressed concern after the opener against Iran that his side being used as an example in a pre-World Cup referees meeting could cloud judgment in awarding penalties to his team. England were denied what looked like a free kick when Maguire was caught by Rouzbeh Cheshmi early on. VAR decided not to intervene but then alerted the referee to a shirt tugging in the England penalty area which led to Iran striker Mehdi Taremi scoring a last-minute penalty , while a similar offense resulted in a kick in Argentina’s shock loss to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. The focus will be on referee Jesus Valenzuela and fellow Venezuelan Juan Soto in the VAR booth.

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By Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at cablefreetv.org