Gareth Southgate urged his England team to keep calm and carry on, despite being booed off by their own fans after suffering a World Cup reality check against the United States.
England are top of Group B and on course to qualify for the knock-out stages of the tournament, but were lucky to escape with a draw from their second game.
Christian Pulisic hit the crossbar and England rarely threatened their opponents until right at the death, when Harry Kane missed a great chance with his head.
While the goalless draw is no disaster in terms of the group, with England needing a draw against Wales to progress and a victory to clinch top spot, it means Southgate cannot rest players for next Tuesday night’s clash.
It also placed some pressure back on Southgate, who will face renewed accusations of being too conservative after leaving Phil Foden on the substitutes’ bench.
Asked about the boos England faced, Southgate said: “Were we booed off though? I’m not sure if that was aimed at us. I don’t know. Personally, I’m pleased with the application of the players. To come off the high of the performance of the other day and find that same energy and quality was always going to be a challenge.
“Of course, I want our fans to go home happy and our fans at home to have a smile on their faces. We haven’t quite managed to achieve that today. But people are going to react how they react.
“We have to stay calm in these moments. We’ve been through tournaments before. We had a unique thing getting through the last two in two games. This is the tournament of external noise and we’ll add another layer to that, I’m sure.
“The players were very down and disappointed afterwards, but I told them that’s not how it’s going to be. I thought they showed another side and that’s going to be important going forward.”
Southgate sent on Jordan Henderson, Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford, while Foden remained on the bench and the England manager did not use all of his substitutes.
“Obviously, whichever one of our forwards we didn't put on if we didn't win the game, I was going to be sitting here answering questions about why I didn't put them on,” said Southgate.
“We wanted to change the wide areas, we didn't think it was a game for Phil in the middle because he doesn't play there for his club and defensively it was a really complicated game for the midfield three to work out.
“That's why we thought Hendo could help us at that moment as well as giving Jude (Bellingham) a physical rest. It was a game for experience in the middle area and then it was a decision on wide players.
“We thought Marcus' speed would be important and Jack could carry the ball up the pitch for us, win fouls and relieve pressure on us. Without a doubt we love Phil, he's a super player. We could have gone with Phil and maybe things would have been different, but that was the choice we made on the night.”
'They were loudly booed off at the end by a section of fans'
🎥 @mcgrathmike and @Matt_Law_DT predicted a big England win but they aren't men for an overreaction.#TelegraphFootball #FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/vgZAlRwHGY
— Telegraph Football (@TeleFootball) November 25, 2022
Raheem Sterling disappeared straight down the tunnel after being taken off and Southgate said: “With Raheem, he is one of the players in dope testing, so I think he started refuelling straight away on his recovery. I think he went to the bench first anyway and then went in.”
There were positives for Southgate, particularly the performances of central defenders John Stones and Harry Maguire.
“With Harry, I’m delighted for him,” said Southgate. “That’s the main thing. He’s been such an important player for us. We never had a single doubt of how important he was for us or the faith we needed to show. He’s shown that with and without the ball in the two games we’ve had.”
Pulisic believes the boos for England reflected well on the USA, saying: “I guess that’s a positive sign when you play for the other team. I thought it was a really good performance from us. There were spells when we pushed them right back and the opposition fans don’t like to see that when we are the ‘underdogs’. But I thought we put in a really good performance. We should be proud of the performance.”
What the pundits said about England's draw
Roy Keane, working as a World Cup pundit for ITV said: "England looked leggy, one paced and short of ideas. Even set pieces you never felt they had a goal in their locked. It was a terrible performance."
Presenter Mark Pougatch posited the theory that England might have struggled to adapt to a 10pm kick off in Qatar, to which Keane delivered a mocking reply.
"We could be here all night making excuses...if you're a professional footballer you travel all over Europe playing in different conditions and different systems," Keane said. "They were playing darts last night...before the game they were a great bunch of players."
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) November 25, 2022
Comparisons were drawn with England's 0-0 draw against Scotland in their second game of Euro 2020, a tournament in which they reached the final before losing on penalties to Italy.
"Tournaments are very rarely a bed of roses all the way through," said Gary Neville post-match in the ITV studio. "It was poor, we're all disappointed and expected more of England."
Why no Foden?
Neville expressed disappointment in England's midfield duo Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham, with USA's trio of Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah dominating that area.
The former Manchester United and England right-back also said the decision to have Trent Alexander-Arnold and Foden sat on the bench was questionable.
"I'm torn a little bit because I've got tremendous respect for Gareth Southgate," Neville said. "But we’ve got a couple of talents sat on the bench in the form of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Foden who are capable of opening up the game.
"Alexander-Arnold has some of the best deliveries you’ll ever see from full-back and on that right side when Rashford came on, he had Henderson and Trippier so he was blocked from getting that delivery in.
"I think those two coming off the bench is a little bit disappointing, if you’re trying to win the game they’re world class talents."
The former Manchester United right-back also said: "Other nations, France, Spain, Brazil would have Trent Alexander-Arnold and Foden in their starting 11."
Alongside him, Ian Wright said: "Same with the Euros, we started well and then struggled against Scotland. You listen to Harry Kane in his post-match interview, he didn't sound too worried about it."
Southgate's decision making
Gary Lineker spoke for many England fans when he questioned Southgate's ability to change matches from the bench, tweeting just after the full-time whistle:
Poor performance from @England, but that happens at a World Cup at some stage. The big question, even with such a talented bunch, is whether the manager can change things positively with his tactics and substitutions when it’s not working.
— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) November 25, 2022
Although Lineker was keen to point out that England have not lost much ground in terms of their prospects for the overall tournament:
From my way too considerable experience of World Cups: if you have a bad night, but are still in decent shape in the tournament, it’s no bad thing. Always good to go to sleep on a positive note. 👍🏻
— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) November 25, 2022
Former England captain John Terry hit out at Southgate’s “negative” tactics by leaving Foden on the substitutes’ bench for the 90 minutes, and questioned whether he had learned the necessary lessons from previous failures when it comes to changing games tactically.
“This was always going to be the toughest game in the group. I always thought it would be England, America, then anyone else after that.
“It is still disappointing, especially after the way we played in the first game. I'm disappointed we've not got on the scoresheet tonight and disappointed with some of the tactical changes, very negative from my point of view, I'd love to see us be more aggressive.
“We spoke about Gareth, can he learn from his mistakes previously [on those] kind of things and for me personally I would have done things differently. How we've not seen Foden on the pitch tonight is beyond me.
“He's one of our best and biggest talents. I'd love to see him on the pitch. You throw him and Jack Grealish on, and Rashford and those guys, it excites people, it gives the team a lift.
“These guys are big, big stars and they need to play football.”
How America reacted
There was also praise for USA's performance, with former Bolton Wanderers midfielder Stuart Holden singling Tyler Adams out as a star performer:
Tyler Adams has been outstanding at the World Cup. If he finishes the Premier League season the way he started it, he’ll be off to a top level Champions League team. What a player 🔥
— Stu Holden (@stuholden) November 25, 2022
Holden also told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I am chipper. We feel really good about that match. I thought the USA would go on and win the game in the second half. I was really happy with how we pressed England.
"We are the third youngest team of the tournament. I thought Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams played really well. It is still the same challenge for USA: Beat Iran and go through. I would have liked us to go for it in the last 10 minutes because we had nothing to lose in this game. That is what you saw from the young USA game. Americans back home will be proud that we went toe-to-toe with you guys.
The New York Times ran the headline ‘In Global Soccer’s Spotlight, US Men Show Off Their Progress’ on the front page of their Saturday newspaper, highlighting the “shrinking gap” between their national side and the established European nations - and also drew on the comical back-and-forth between fans on whether the sport is called “football” or “soccer”.
— The Front Pages (@FrontPages1) November 26, 2022
Andrew Keh wrote: “As the United States has seen its soccer culture develop in recent decades, it has always used the great powers of Europe as a handy measuring stick, a mark of how far it has come and how far it still needs to go. Yet it is England, a country that prefers to call the sport football and definitely believes it is better than the Americans at playing it, that has always served as the reference point that matters most.
“On Friday night, the United States got a rare opportunity to measure the shrinking distance between the countries’ teams, and by most assessments performed admirably, scrapping to a scoreless tie that left the Americans holding their World Cup destiny in their hands.
“The result — and small moments like the fans’ sassy chant — sent the message that the United States was ascendant and ambitious for more.”
The LA Times printed an image of American fans on their front page with the headline ‘Winless, and Unbeaten’, while the the Washington Post’s front page hailed the American side with “Undaunted US men earn draw against England”, in which they did not hesitate in highlighting the fact England were heavy favourites to win yet still have not beaten the US at a World Cup.
— The Front Pages (@FrontPages1) November 26, 2022
“The United States is 2-8-2 all time against England, with the previous victory coming 29 years ago, but in three World Cup meetings, it’s unbeaten (1-0-2),” wrote Steven Goff. “In this clash, there was no telling the blue bloods from the upstarts, the team stacked with expensive international stars from the international novices.”
His colleague, Chuck Culpepper, added: The circumstances don’t seem to matter. Play the United States, and England winds up sent to the corner of the aquarium for a mild national sulk. Make it a loss (1950) and two draws all told — in South America, Africa and now Asia — and raise the question: If something happens without fail, does it count as an oddity?
“Now comes a dose of that old reality about the old grind, one World Cup after 2018 when 50 million sets of hands spent this part of the group-stage process getting a breather from their customary wringing.
They will wring with the best of all the world’s wringers for a few days now after England found its passing lanes gummed up and its quality surrounded by company. Never did it look free and comfortable. Only once did it ask American goalkeeper Matt Turner to make any kind of stretch.”