High stakes opener for Berhalter’s USMNT
The United States and Wales will head into Monday’s World Cup clash knowing that victory could decide one of Group B’s two qualifiers, with England fancied as heavy favourites to advance as group winners.
With a golden generation of talent spearheaded by Gareth Bale and playing at their first World Cup in 64 years, Wales will be out to echo their recent successes at European level, having reached the Euro 2016 semi-finals and the last 16 at Euro 2020.
Manager Rob Page called up nine Premier League-based players to his World Cup squad — which U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said the Americans must not underestimate, despite Wales’s preparations being hampered by injuries to key players including Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey.
“I think that, at least to the American media, Wales is under-rated,” Berhalter told reporters. “When I look at their squad, it’s basically a Premier League squad.
“To me, it’s a really good squad, a formidable squad. They’ve been in international competition before, they know what it’s like. And it’s going to be a very difficult game.”
The U.S. team endured a rocky run-up to Qatar and failed to score in September friendlies against Japan and Saudi Arabia, but Berhalter’s youthful albeit unproven squad will look to silence critics when they return to the World Cup stage after eight years.