USA v Wales
64 years on from their last appearance at the World Cup, Wales will lock horns with the USA on the biggest stage on Monday in their first match in Group B.
Rob Page will see this as a game that his side needs to get something from if they are to advance from the group, but they come up against a USA side who will be confident they have the beatings of them boasting talent such as Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams who is having a great season at Leeds United and Weston McKennie of Juventus.
From an American perspective, the good news is they’ve played a couple sides who take a similar tactical approach to what they might see against Wales in their Group B opener.
The bad news is it hasn’t gone so well.
The best comparison is probably their two matches against a blossoming Canadian side who took their low-block-and-counter style all the way to the top of the CONCACAF qualifying table. The USA took only one point from their two meetings with their northern neighbors, one reason the Americans didn’t secure their spot in Qatar officially until their final match against Costa Rica.
Despite this, the USA have the youngest squad in the group and the second youngest squad in the tournament with an average age of 25.1 years old. Wales will be full of confidence going into the tournament after their historic play-off wins against Austria and Ukraine despite their last results in the Nations League which they feel the score lines didn’t reflect their performances against some good teams in Belgium, The Netherlands and Poland.
Wales are certainly more talented than Costa Rica and at least even in quality with Canada. But they might lack the Canadians’ athleticism up front and on the flanks.
Even so, their willingness to make opponents work could be tricky for an American group that, despite manager Gregg Berhalter’s intentions to be a better side in possession, have often performed best when they can be the ones on the counter.
The key from the U.S. perspective will be how much danger they can create from the wings and in an attacking midfield.
In particular, Dortmund midfielder Gio Reyna could provide an incisiveness the USA have lacked at times. The 20-year-old has looked dangerous when he wears a USMNT jersey, but it happened only four times in qualifying while he battled persistent leg injuries.
Ampadu averaged 3 fouls per game in the Nations League and he is averaging 1.5 fouls per game in Serie A this season. He is likely to feature at either centre-midfield or right centre-back. Joe Allen is out so he could well be starting in midfield and that would be ideal for more fouls.
After missing all of August and September with Ligue 1’s Lille to injury, Tim Weah has featured most recently as a right back, forcing his shots per 90 minutes down to 1.42 this season.
But in American circles, the striker situation was once so dire there was talk Weah could be employed as a false nine. Nothing has suggested Berhalter is considering that radical approach. Even so, Weah averaged 2.6 shots per 90 minutes in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
He’s very likely to be an opening match starter on one of the flanks for the Americans, in a game where they will probably have more of the overall opportunities on goal, if not necessarily better quality of chances. That makes him a good bet to take two or more shots here.
So long as he’s healthy, Tyler Adams is among the most certain players to not only be in Berhalter’s XI, but to play the full 90 minutes.
He averaged about 58 attempted passes per 90 minutes in his qualifying appearances for the United States, which is nearly identical to his performance this season with Leeds. And he actually hovered in the mid 60s per 90 in his previous time with RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga, albeit often while making shorter appearances.
He’s completed 50 or more passes in eight of his 13 Premier League appearances for Leeds, including five times in the seven games where his side have held the majority of possession.
I’d expect Wales to be content to sit deep and let this American midfield have the ball for stretches. Which leads to a very likely chance that Adams will attempt 50 or more passes here.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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