An unthinkable reality: An English take on the USA’s World Cup failure

The USA aren’t going to the World Cup.

I didn’t think I’d ever have to write that sentence. I can’t believe I’m doing so now.

When the final whistle blew in Trinidad on Tuesday night, it was 3AM here in the UK. I didn’t sit through 90 torturous minutes, as the reality of the USA’s World Cup failure slowly sank in. Instead, I woke up to a melting pot of despair. The USA had lost. Panama and Honduras won.

The United States’ failure to qualify for the World Cup isn’t just devastating on a nation level, it’s global. The World Cup will be a worse tournament without the USA. It will be a worse tournament without the likes of Ghana, Chile and the Netherlands too. But the USA’s absence hurts more.

They’ve reached the Round of 16 in back-to-back tournaments. Their passion both on the field and in the stands has been fantastic to see. But most importantly, they’ve been improving.

Soccer is a big deal in the USA now. Sure, it could still get even bigger. But the fact is, people have started to fall in love with the game. The biggest reason for the surge in support is probably because of how well they battled at the 2014 World Cup. They might have gone out to Belgium, but they won a lot of people’s hearts over that day.

But those hearts were all broken with Tuesday’s result in Trinidad.

Embed from Getty ImagesThe USA have been to seven successive World Cup’s. They’ve not missed the tournament since 1986. To put it into perspective, England have missed a World Cup more recently than the USMNT, as the Three Lions failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

There is a real sense of entitlement when it comes to World Cup qualification here in England. Many fans don’t even watch many of the qualifiers. They just expect to see England at the main event. And yes, for the past 20 years, qualifying has been easy for the Three Lions. They’ve only lost four of their last 56 World Cup qualifiers.

That’s as many as the USA lost in this year’s Hexagonal alone.

But qualification for the USA should be a straightforward task too. The quality of teams across the CONCACAF region is improving, but the USA should not be finishing behind the likes of Panama and Honduras. There is no excuse for that, regardless of who is the head coach and who’s in charge of the United States Soccer Federation.

Tuesday night’s defeat to Trinidad will surely go down as the most embarrassing and heartbreaking night in US Soccer history. It sure feels like that now, and I’m sure it will still feel like that for a long time.

Taylor Twellman summed up the emotion of USA fans on ESPN after the game. He was incensed and rightly so.

But this must now act as the catalyst for change for the USA. A lot of fingers are being pointed. There are a lot of places to look for where things have gone wrong over the past couple of years. But there is no greater time to bring about large-scale changes than when staring at a reality like the USA is right now.

A new coach will surely be needed. Some players will have played their last game for the USMNT. Others will now step forward. Changes will be made as to how the USA scouts players, how it develops them. It will take time. But the USA now has time. They will not play a competitive game again now until the 2019 Gold Cup.

I might not be American, but I believe in US Soccer. I believe in MLS. And I believe that the USA’s World Cup failure will be the catalyst for change, the catalyst for a brighter future. Things can only improve from here…

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MLSGB’s predicted England lineup vs Malta

Take a look at MLSGB‘s predicted England lineup vs Malta for their World Cup Qualifier on Friday evening. Gareth Southgate will set up to attack so 3-5-2 is the most likely formation. Although England should win comfortably they are still going to have to get goals early to ensure it is not a dragged out affair.

England lineup vs Malta: Defence

We expect Joe Hart to start in goal. Jordan Pickford’s withdrawal from the squad means the West Ham man is the front-runner to take the number one shirt. Burnley’s Tom Heaton will feel hard done by, but Hart’s experience makes his inclusion more likely.

John Stones, Gary Cahill and Michael Keane have all made strong starts to the Premier League season. The three of them are comfortable on the ball so they are capable of helping to break Malta down.

Kyle Walker and Ryan Bertrand are the obvious choices for wing-backs. The pair have great attacking ability and love to get forward. Even if they are caught out of position there is enough cover with the three behind them.

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England lineup vs Malta: Midfield

Southgate has a difficult choice for the two midfielders in the holding role given how many options he has. However we feel it will be Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson who make the cut. Dele Alli will sit in front of the two, providing the necessary flare and qualities to unlock the Malta backline.

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England lineup vs Malta: Attack

The attacking pairing is Southgate’s most difficult selection for us. Harry Kane start despite the fact he failed to find the back of the net in August. Kane’s partner for this one could be any of the other attacking options in the squad. Jamie Vardy will be hoping for some minutes but we think Marcus Rashford’s impressive start to the season will earn him a place in the starting XI.

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What would your England lineup be for the game against Malta?

World Cup Qualifying Preview and Prediction: USA vs Costa Rica

2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier (CONCACAF): USA vs Costa Rica

Red Bull Arena – Friday, September 1 – 18:55 ET (23:55 BST)

Match Odds: USA 7/10 – Draw 23/10 – Costa Rica 4/1

USA vs Costa Rica: Preview

The USA (2-2-2) host Costa Rica (3-1-2) in a crucial World Cup qualifier at Red Bull Arena on Friday night. The United States have not lost a game since Bruce Arena took over as head coach from Jurgen Klinsmann. But the USA’s last defeat did come in their 4-0 qualifying loss at Costa Rica last December.

That heavy defeat left the USA bottom of the Hexagonal after back-to-back defeats. Klinsmann’s time was up and Arena was brought back in. Things have improved dramatically since.

The USMNT now sit third in the Hex, three points behind Costa Rica with four games to go. If they can win here, they will move ahead of Los Ticos on goal difference.

Recent form suggests the USA should prove too strong. They are unbeaten in 14 under Arena and have won five-straight games. They beat Costa Rica 2-0 on their way to winning the 2017 Gold Cup Final against Jamaica last month and are on a roll.

Costa Rica haven’t played since that semifinal loss to the United States at last month’s Gold Cup. They started the Hex in blistering form, scoring six goals in two games without conceding. But they have since won just one of their four qualifiers.

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They still have a squad strong enough to win any game in qualifying, but they must get back to where they were at this stage last year. They went unbeaten from June to January last year, posting a 7-0-3 record in that run.

The USA haven’t lost a home World Cup qualifier to Costa Rica since 1985. They have won six of their last eight home games against Los Ticos since that loss 32 years ago.

USA vs Costa Rica: Team News

USA head coach Bruce Arena hasn’t included any surprise call-ups in his squad for the upcoming qualifiers. 18 of the 26 players play in MLS and are in optimum shape at this stage of the regular season. While stars from European clubs such as Christian Pulisic, Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson will all expect to start. Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler and Jozy Altidore will all pick up a suspension if they receive yellow cards on Friday night.

Costa Rica will have to cope without star winger Joel Campbell. He is recovering from knee surgery and is ruled out for some time. Los Ticos do still have top talent to call on though, with Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas the standout name in the roster. Seven MLS players are included in the Costa Rica squad, including Vancouver duo Kendall Waston and Cristian Bolanos as well as Portland’s David Guzman and NYCFC’s Rodney Wallace. San Jose Earthquakes’ Marcos Urena might start up front.

USA vs Costa Rica: Key Points

USA’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Costa Rica’s last five: W/D/W/W/L

Key Stat: The USA are unbeaten in 14 games since Bruce Arena took over from Jurgen Klinsmann last December. They’ve gone 9-0-5 under Arena in 2017.

Key Player: Clint Dempsey – The USA veteran needs one more goal to become the USMNT’s all-time leading goalscorer. He is currently tied with Landon Donovan on 57 and will break the record if he finds the back of the net here. He has four in his last seven internationals and comes into Friday’s game in good form with the Sounders. He’s also the leading scorer in the Hex coming into Friday’s fixtures.

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USA vs Costa Rica: Prediction

USA 2-0 Costa Rica – The USA have won their last two home qualifiers without conceding a goal. That shouldn’t change on Friday as they arrive in high spirits with an experienced squad of stars. Costa Rica’s qualifying campaign is almost the complete opposite of the United States’. They started well but now look vulnerable and a resurgent USMNT should get the job done at Red Bull Arena on Friday.

World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: Panama vs USA

Competition: 2018 World Cup Qualifier – Panama vs. USA
Venue: Estadio Rommel Fernández – Tuesday, March 28 – 22:00 ET (03:00 BST) 
Match Odds: Panama 12/5 – Draw 11/5 – USA 21/20

Match Preview

Panama host the USA in a crucial World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night, with just one place and one point separating the sides going into the fourth round of fixtures in a fiercely competitive Hexagonal.

Panama are one of CONCACAF’s toughest sides to break down. They lost 1-0 to Trinidad on Friday night, with Kevin Molino’s goal the only strike they have conceded in three qualifiers so far.

They opened the Hex with a 1-0 win at Honduras and followed it up by holding Mexico to a 0-0 draw at home. Panama have never qualified for a World Cup but sit just three points off Mexico going into Tuesday’s games and know that they will remain on track if they can avoid defeat against the USA.

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That will be no easy task, given how the US men’s national team dismantled Honduras at Avaya Stadium on Friday night. The manner of the 6-0 win in Bruce Arena’s first competitive game since taking over as head coach once again in November was unexpected but incredibly impressive.

Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey tore the Honduran defence apart, while Michael Bradley thrived in the lone defensive-midfield role, even grabbing a goal himself as the USA sent out a statement of intent to their CONCACAF rivals.

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Few changes are expected for Tuesday’s trip to Panama City and the aim will be for the US to try and score early to force the hosts to come forward. Their approach worked perfectly against Honduras and will surely be adopted once again here.

The challenge will now be to follow that result up with another strong performance as they look to move into the top three of the Hex. Tuesday’s game will be the last qualifier until June so Arena knows the team must leave Panama with at least a point.

The USA have never lost a World Cup qualifier to Panama but have not beaten them in their last two meetings, both coming in the 2015 Gold Cup with the Panamanians beating the USMNT on penalties in the 3rd place playoff.

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Team News

MLS fans will be familiar with a number of faces in the Panama lineup on Tuesday. Former LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo will be looking to keep the US out, helped by Seattle’s stalwart Roman Torres. Toronto’s Armando Cooper will likely play alongside San Jose’s Anibal Godoy in midfield, with former Quakes teammate Alberto Quintero looking to cause trouble from out wide. Former MLS strikers Blas Perez and Gabriel Torres will be looking to make an impact, but it will likely have to come from the bench.

Bruce Arena will have to change his starting lineup as Sebastian Lletget and John Brooks are both at home dealing with injuries picked up on Friday. Jordan Morris has left the squad as his ankle problem means he can’t take to the field, so he’s returned to Seattle for treatment. Alejandro Bedoya is likely to come into the starting lineup in place of Lletget, while Jermaine Jones is available again after serving his suspension and might get a start. 

Key Points

Panama’s last five: W/L/W/W/L

USA’s last five: L/L/D/W/W

Key Stat: Panama have gone nine games without conceding more than a single goal in a match. They have only let in four goals in those nine games.

Key Player: Clint Dempsey – Fresh from scoring a hat-trick in Friday’s 6-0 demolition over Honduras, Dempsey will be looking to fire the USA to a second consecutive win in an equally important game. He has found the net in two of the last three meetings with Panama and will expect to cause their solid defence some serious problems on Tuesday.

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Score Prediction

Panama 1-1 USA – This looks set to be a much trickier contest than Friday night’s for the USMNT but they will not expect to leave Panama with anything less than a point. They have the quality to beat Panama but have been tied at 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes the last two times they have faced them and might just have to settle for the same result here in what is a vital game for both sides.

World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: USA vs Honduras

Competition: Major League Soccer – USA vs. Honduras
Venue: Avaya Stadium – Friday, March 24th – 22:30 ET (02:30 GMT
Match Odds: USA 4/9 – Draw 14/5 – Honduras 13/2

Match Preview

The USA’s World Cup hopes are hanging precariously in the balance ahead of a huge qualifier against Honduras on Friday night at San Jose Earthquakes’ Avaya Stadium in California, with Bruce Arena taking charge of his first competitive game since replacing Jurgen Klinsmann as the head coach.

Klinsmann’s final game in charge came in the US national team’s most recent qualification game – a devastating 4-0 loss at Costa Rica, leaving them bottom of the Hexagonal after two matches. A loss to Honduras on Friday would make it almost impossible for the USA to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in just over a year.

No team has ever qualified for the game’s biggest tournament after picking up just one point from their opening three Hexagonal matches, so not only do the US need to avoid defeat, they need to take the game to Honduras and breakdown what is expected to be a stern defensive setup.

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Los Catrachos sit fourth in the Hex after winning one and losing one so far. They opened with a surprise 1-0 home loss to Panama but picked up in their second game to beat Trinidad & Tobago 3-1.

They will be looking to follow that result up with at least another point in their first road game here. If they can avoid defeat to the US on Friday, the Hondurans will no doubt be feeling a lot more confident about their chances of playing in Russia next summer.

They have some dangerous attacking assets that MLS fans – and Houston Dynamo supporters in particular – will be familiar with already this season. Romell Quioto, Boniek Garcia and Alberth Elis can all create chances out of nothing and will be looking to hit an injury-stricken USA backline on the counter wherever possible.

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Bruce Arena has been dealt a few major injury blows in the lead up to this pivotal game, with Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson all sidelined. All three would have been expected to start and so adjustments will have to be made.

Add in the fact that Jermaine Jones is suspended and Jordan Morris is struggling with an ankle injury picked up in last Sunday’s win over the Red Bulls and it’s easy to start questioning the team’s chances of getting three points on the board.

That said, the US have more than enough depth to cover for the losses and have no fewer than 19 MLS players in the squad. All of them should be fresh as we’re only three weeks into the regular season and that could prove to be a major boost on the night. 

Christian Pulisic is also set to start his third-straight qualifier and the 18-year-old Dortmund star comes into the game high in confidence after starring in the Bundesliga and Champions League in recent weeks.

Victory is expected. A draw would leave the USMNT with an enormous task on their hands. But defeat would surely spell catastrophe for the nation’s hopes of qualifying. It’s an enormous game and one the hosts have to deliver in.

Team News

As mentioned above, Arena has been hit with a number of injuries to key players based in Europe. Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson are all out. Jordan Morris is a doubt, but could make an impact off the bench, while Jermaine Jones is suspended. Jozy Altidore looks certain to lead the attack, with Clint Dempsey in line for a return the starting lineup after recovering from his irregular heartbeat problem that ruled him out of action for the backend of 2016. It’s unclear how the defence will lineup but it’s likely we’ll see Geoff Cameron fill in at right-back, with John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez pairing up in the centre of defence and Jorge Villafaña operating down the left side.

Honduras will look to their MLS-based stars to shine brightly at Avaya Stadium on Friday. Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis offer devastating pace, while Maynor Figueroa and Roger Espinoza provide them with experienced defensive cover, and that will surely be needed as the USA have to take the game to the visitors.

Key Points

USA’s last five: D/L/L/D/W

Honduras’s last five: D/W/L/L/W

Key Stat: The USMNT have only lost one of their last 31 World Cup qualifiers on home soil, although that did come in their latest home game against Mexico back in November.

Key Player: Christian Pulisic – The Dortmund winger has been in excellent form over the last few weeks, scoring three times in five games in March. He is young enough to be able to handle the volume of games but will be tested with handling intense pressure in a huge game for his country on Friday night. He might only be 18, but Pulisic has already proven he is a special talent and will look to shine here.

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Score Prediction

USA 2-1 Honduras – This is likely to be an extremely nervy evening for USA supporters but one that should end in an all-important victory given the quality of the team. There are some key absentees but Bruce Arena has enough tools at his disposal to get the job done. Honduras will be a real threat on the counter but ultimately the hosts should pull through.

World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: Slovenia vs England

Competition: World Cup 2018 Qualification – Slovenia vs England

Venue: Stožice Stadium – Tuesday, October 11 – 19:45 BST (14:45 ET) 

Match Odds: Slovenia 19/4 – Draw 5/2 – England 4/6

Match Preview

Slovenia host England in both side’s third Group F World Cup Qualifying game on Tuesday night, with the Three Lions looking to make it three wins from three and remain top of the group.

Slovenia started their campaign with a 2-2 draw in Lithuania but followed it up with a 1-0 home win over Slovakia on Saturday and now sit joint-second with Scotland in Group F, two points behind leaders England.

Tuesday night’s game is a great chance for Slovenia to prove their credentials as they look to qualify for a major tournament for the first time since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, in which they were drawn in the same group as England.

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They have a strong home record and are tough the break down, so will be confident of getting a result against Gareth Southgate’s men here.

For England, it’s a chance to take full control of the group by keeping their 100% record intact in what is one of the campaign’s toughest away games.

The Three Lions have already won away at Slovakia in their opening Group F game and have more than enough quality in the squad to leave Slovenia with three points on Tuesday.

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Southgate will have been pleased with the win over Malta but will know that he’s being judged on how he sets his side up for games like this one. A win in Ljubljana would start to change people’s minds on whether he’s the right man for the job in the long run.

This will be the fifth meeting between the two nations. England have won all four prior to this, winning home and away in qualification for Euro 2016 over the last two years.

Team News

Slovenia have been rocked by the loss of their star man Kevin Kampl, with the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder withdrawing from the squad through exhaustion. Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak will expect to be busy in goal but will back his abilities as he looks to keep a second clean sheet in a week.

England have lost Tom Heaton and Ryan Bertrand through injury, with Kieran Gibbs and Jordan Pickford coming into the squad. Wayne Rooney is expected to start the game on the bench, with Eric Dier likely to come into midfield in order to offer some solid protection in what is expected to be a tougher game than the home clash against Malta. Marcus Rashford will be hoping for a start but may have to make an impact off the bench.

Key Points

Slovenia’s last five: L/D/L/D/W

England’s last five: W/D/L/W/W

Key Stat: Slovenia have only lost three of their last 13 home games, keeping clean sheets in eight of those games.

Key Player: Dele Alli – The young Tottenham midfielder scored his second England goal in the win over Malta on Saturday and will be looking to star for Southgate once again here. In what is expected to be a tight game, Alli will need to use his creativity to try and unlock a stern Slovenian defence.

Score Prediction

Slovenia 0-1 England – This will likely be another difficult away game for England. They managed to break down Slovakia in the dying minutes and will need to be prepared to face another resilient defence here. But, given the quality in this England side, they should be able to leave Slovenia with all three points.

World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: England vs Malta

Competition: International Friendly – England vs. Malta 

Venue: Wembley Stadium – Saturday, October 8 – 17:00 BST (12:00 ET)

Match Odds: England 1/50 – Draw 20/1 – Malta 50/1

Match Preview

England welcome Malta to Wembley on Saturday afternoon in the second round of World Cup qualifying fixtures in Group F.

The host nation are second in the group heading into this game, behind only by goal difference. This is an opportunity for England to pick up three points and improve their goal tally in a game their are expected to win comfortably.

Since their opening win of the qualifying rounds England have parted company with Sam Allardyce for his ‘inappropriate conduct’ in a meeting with undercover reporters. England started their campaign with a late 1-0 win over Slovakia and anything but 100% after the second round of fixtures will be deemed inexcusable.

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Gareth Southgate takes interim charge of the national team for the first time since replacing Allardyce, he has been promoted from the U21 boss.

Malta were thumped 5-1 by Group F leaders Scotland in their opening game of the qualifying campaign, seeing their winless run extended to 11 games.

Pietro Ghedin faces the unenviable task of trying to frustrate teams in the group, with his side widely expected to finish bottom and be on the receiving end of many defeats by a high number of goals.

Malta are ranked 176th in the world rankings, their last win came in 2015 and they have conceded 14 goals in their last four games.

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Team News

Southgate announced Wayne Rooney would remain England captain during his time in charge. Phil Jagielka, Raheem Sterling and Glen Johnson pulled out of the squad through injury, leaving the door open for Michael Keane to earn his first cap for England. Andros Townsend replaced Sterling but Southgate isn’t expected to call in a replacement for Jagielka.

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Malta have no real ‘household name’ players in their squad. What you can expect is their starting XI to work extremely hard and ensure they earn the respect of the Wembley crowd.

Key Points

England’s last five: D/W/D/L/W

Malta’s last five: D/L/L/D/L

Key Stat: This is Gareth Southgate’s first game as head coach of England’s senior team.

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Key Player: Dele Alli – The Tottenham Hotspur star is full of enthusiasm and talent. He will be hoping to express himself on the ball in this game and make it one to remember.

Score Prediction

England 4-0 Malta – To say England are favourites is an understatement. They simply have to pick up a strong win here and ensure they keep a clean sheet. If they score a couple of early goals Malta’s confidence will be even lower than when the game kicks off, but they have to treat their opposition with respect and go about their business in a professional way.

World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: Slovakia vs England

Competition: 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier – Slovakia vs. England

Venue: Stadion Antona Malatinskeho – Sunday, September 4 – 17:00 BST (12:00 ET)

Match Odds: Slovakia 3/1 – Draw 12/5 – England 1/1

Match Preview

Slovakia host England on Sunday afternoon as the qualification cycle for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia begins this weekend.

England are entering another new era as Sam Allardyce will take charge of his first international match since replacing Roy Hodgson in the summer.

These two sides faced off in their final group stage game at Euro 2016 in June, playing out a dull 0-0 draw. Slovakia are still looking to beat the Three Lions for the first time, having lost three in a row before the draw in France two months ago.

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Slovakia picked up just one win at the Euro’s and were eliminated by Germany after being thumped 3-0 in the Round of 16. They begin their qualification campaign looking to qualify for just their second World Cup, after only previously taking part in South Africa in 2010.

Slovakia have won just two of their last eight competitive internationals, so it’s no surprise they enter Sunday’s games as underdogs, with England expected to start life under ‘Big Sam’ with a win. But that’s far from guaranteed, considering the shameful 2-1 defeat to Iceland the last time these English players were together.

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A calamitous Euro 2016 campaign saw Roy Hodgson lose his job, with the defeat to Iceland one of the lowest points in English football history. A much-improved performance is needed this weekend to get the nation back onside.

Allardyce hasn’t had much of a chance to work with his players and so it will be intriguing to see how they respond to the new manager this weekend. The only England manager to not win his first game was Sir Alf Ramsey in 1963, so Big Sam knows the pressure is on.

Team News

Slovakia’s main threat remains Marek Hamsik. He is one of the most creative players in European football and manager Jan Kozak will look to get the best out of him here if Slovakia are to stand a chance. Former Liverpool centre-back Martin Skrtel will be hoping to keep England out as he did successfully at the Euro’s.

Sam Allardyce has already announced his first England starting lineup, making just three changes to the team that lost to Iceland in the Round of 16 a couple of months ago. Chris Smalling, Dele Alli and Daniel Sturridge are all dropped, with John Stones, Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana replacing that trio. Wayne Rooney will captain the side once more and will become England’s most-capped outfield player on Sunday. Joe Hart remains No.1 despite leaving Manchester City on Deadline Day.

England XI to face Slovakia: Hart, Walker, Cahill, Stones, Rose, Dier, Henderson, Lallana, Rooney, Sterling, Kane.

Key Points

Slovakia’s last five: D/L/W/D/L

England’s last five: W/D/W/D/L

Key Stat: England have not lost a World Cup Qualifier since October 2009. That is the Three Lions’ only defeat in their last 22 WC qualification outings.

Key Player: Wayne Rooney – There are many who feel the Manchester United man needs to now be taken out of the international picture, but Allardyce has kept him as captain and Rooney will become the outright leader for appearances made by an outfield player on Sunday. He is currently tied with David Beckham on 115 caps. A good start to life under the new manager is vital for Rooney if he is to remain a key player for England.

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Score Prediction

Slovakia 0-2 England – A horrendous end to Euro 2016 may still be in the minds of these players and fans alike, but the chance for a fresh start under Allardyce should see the England players lifted for the trip to Slovakia this weekend. The Slovakians haven’t been in great form in 2016 and will likely be penned in for the majority of the game. They defended valiantly against the Three Lions in the summer but are unlikely to be able to equal that. England to win, though it might not be a walk in the park.

Are Everton be right to be chasing this £30m rated United star?

New Everton boss Ronald Koeman is looking to bring in one more attacking midfielder before the start of the new season according to The Times. The club have moved quickly to use some of the money raised by the £47.5 million sale of John Stones.

The paper suggests Mata will push for an exit from Manchester United with the Everton manager keen on trying to sign the 28-year-old midfielder, despite the fact that United have stated he is not for sale.

Mata’s unstable relationship with manager Jose Mourinho was thrown into the melting pot once again as he was subbed off after being subbed on in the Community Shield final last weekend.

So what could Mata bring to Everton?

Experience:

Mata has a wealth of experience at the highest level. He featured in the Spanish World Cup and European Championship winning sides and he has also won the UEFA Champions League.

At just 28 years old his is now heading into his prime and has already played a staggering 418 domestic career games, racking up 107 goals and 130 assists.

Utility:

The Manchester United man can play as a number ten as well as a left or right sided midfielder. Although Mata isn’t blessed with blistering pace, his ability to hold onto the ball and pick passes makes him a great option in any position in the final third.

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Set pieces:

Mata has a knack of scoring free kicks and creating chances from set pieces. One of his most notable assists from a set piece was in the Champions League final of 2012.

Temptation:

Signing a world class star like Mata arguably increases the possibility to sign other players. The Spaniard has close relationships with players at United, Chelsea and a whole host of Spanish league clubs.

Consistency:

Mata averages a goal ratio of just over one in four and he has contributed directly to 237 goals in his 418 domestic career appearances. His Premier League statistics to date make him an ideal player for any club. In the 168 games he has featured in he has scored 38 goals and registered 48 assists. He also has an incredible record in the FA Cup, where he has scored 12 goals in 23 games and registered nine assists.

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While it is unclear whether Everton will make a move for Mata or if United would overturn their decision to make their midfielder unavailable in this transfer window, he would offer a lot to the Merseyside club.

Would Mata be a good signing for Everton? Will Manchester United let the Spaniard leave this summer?

World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: Guatemala vs USA

Competition: CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier – Guatemala vs. USA

Venue: Estadio Mateo Flores, Guatemala – Friday, March 25 – 22:00 ET (02:00 GMT)

Match Odds: Guatemala 17/2 – Draw 100/30 – USA 1/3

Match Preview

Guatemala host the USA in an important World Cup qualifier on Friday night in what will be the first of two games between the nations in five days.

Both sides have played two games so far in Group C of CONCACAF qualifying, with the USA topping the group ahead of Trinidad and Tobago on goal difference. Guatemala sit in third place, but know that picking up at least one good result against the USA over the next week will keep their hopes alive.

Guatemala have never qualified for a World Cup but did reach the Hexagonal stage of qualifying in 2006, where they finished fifth and narrowly missed out the intercontinental playoff spot.

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Los Chapines fell 2-1 to Trinidad before thrashing St Vincent and the Grenadines 4-0 in their first two Group C games. Back-to-back losses to the USA this week will all but end their hopes of qualifying, so Guatemala need to try and make home advantage count on Friday evening.

The US Men’s National Team are entering two important games as the double header against Guatemala will be Jurgen Klinsmann’s last chance to assess his squad ahead of this summer’s Copa America Centenario.

The German head coach has said the USA “badly want to get the job done before the Copa America if possible” and he is targeting six points from the two games against Los Chapines this week.

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An opening 6-1 win over St Vincent and the Grenadines was followed by a 0-0 draw in Trinidad. The USA have only won two of their last eight games away from home and a win on Friday would be a real boost.

Klinsmann has called up an experienced squad for these games. He will expect his side to record two victories as all attentions will turn to this summer’s Copa America as soon as this home-and-home series with Guatemala is over.

These nations have met at this stage of CONCACAF qualifying in each of the past five World Cup cycles. The USA have posted a 7-0-5 record in those qualifiers but have only won one of the five games in Guatemala (W1 D4).

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Team News

Jurgen Klinsmann has called up 26 players for the upcoming home-and-home series with Guatemala over the next five days, with 13 MLS stars in the latest squad. There are eight players looking to appear in their first World Cup qualifying matches, while 15 members of the squad travelled to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. Bobby Wood will be one to watch as the Union Berlin forward will hope to continue to shine if given the chance to in attack.

Guatemala have called up 24 players for the two qualifying games against USA, with six attackers named to the roster. MLS fans will be familiar with Colorado Rapids midfielder Marco Pappa as well as Carlos Ruiz, who played for five MLS clubs between 2002 and 2013. Moises Hernandez (FC Dallas) and Rodrigo Saravia (Columbus Crew) have also made the squad and will hope to impress.

Key Points

Guatemala’s last five: D/L/W/W/W

USA’s last five: L/W/D/W/W

Key Stat: The USA are unbeaten in 21 consecutive matches against Guatemala – their longest current unbeaten run against any other international side.

Key Player: Marco Pappa – Americans will be familiar with Guatemala’s Marco Pappa. The midfielder in currently in his seventh MLS season after joining the Colorado Rapids this offseason. He is nearing full fitness now and will need to be at his best to break down the USMNT defence and give Guatemala a chance of winning this game.

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Score Prediction

Guatemala 1-1 USA – Clashes between these two in Guatemala have proven to be low-scoring affairs in recent history and a close-fought battle is expected here. The USA are favourites and have a much stronger squad. But Guatemala will be tough to break down and could pick up another home draw in what is an important qualifier for both nations.