U.S. draws England; Mexico gets Messi, Argentina
The United States has been drawn in Group B against England, Iran and the winner of the last remaining European playoff for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, while Mexico will face Lionel Messi‘s Argentina.
The last team in the USMNT’s group will be decided in June, as either Scotland or Ukraine will face Wales for the final European spot at the World Cup.
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Mexico has been drawn in Group C and will face Argentina, Poland and Saudi Arabia, while Canada will face Belgium, Morocco and Croatia in Group F.
The USMNT will play its tournament opener against the winner of the European playoff Nov. 21, before facing England on Nov. 25 and Iran on Nov. 29.
If the U.S. qualifies from its group, it will then play either the winner or the runner-up from Group A (Qatar, Senegal, Ecuador and Netherlands) in the round of 16.
Gregg Berhalter’s side clinched one of CONCACAF’s three automatic qualification places Wednesday despite a 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica.
The 48-year-old coach will be taking charge of his first World Cup as U.S. boss. He was hired in December 2018, just over 12 months after the country’s failure to qualify for the World Cup in Russia.
“We think it’s a good group — we know every opponent in the World Cup is difficult, but with England you get an exciting matchup, with Iran it’s a diverse opponent and they’ve done well in qualifying, and then we’ll have to wait to see who the third opponent is,” Berhalter told the BBC.
“Overall pleased with the group and excited to get started.”
The U.S. and England have history at World Cups and will meet again on Black Friday. In 1950, the U.S. delivered one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history when it stunned the heavily favored English 1-0 on a goal by Joe Gaetjens. The pair met again at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, playing to a 1-1 draw with Clint Dempsey scoring the equalizer for the U.S. after Steven Gerrard’s opener.
The U.S. and Iran have squared off once previously, at the 1998 World Cup, with Iran claiming a memorable 2-1 win that had the effect of eliminating the U.S. from the tournament.
When asked about England manager Gareth Southgate, Berhalter said: “We go way back, and he’s a guy that I look up to and has always been there for me — always giving me advice.
“When I first took the job as national team coach, I look to him as a mentor and have a lot of respect for what he’s doing. I am looking forward to competing against England. I reached out to him when I got the job and asked if he’d be interested in telling me more about international football, and being the guy Gareth is, he was more than happy to have those conversations and we’ve kept in touch.”
Mexico will begin its tournament against Poland on Nov. 22, before playing Argentina on Nov. 26 and Saudi Arabia on Nov. 30.
Weeks of speculation over the future of Mexico head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino ended Friday when the country’s football federation announced he will stay in charge until at least the World Cup.
“There is no easy group in a World Cup”, Mexican Football Federation president Yon de Luisa said. “It’s a great opportunity to show all the passion of our players and great fans.”
A string of lackluster results for Mexico and issues with Martino’s vision had caused doubt over his position as boss, but Mexico eventually finished second in World Cup qualifying, booking its place in Qatar.
Mexico and Argentina have had some memorable encounters, including a pair of round-of-16 matches at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. Argentina prevailed in both matches, winning 2-1 in extra time in 2006 and 3-1 four years later.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said: “We’ve gotten a group with difficult rivals. We know Mexico, a good rival with good players. I think we can have a good group phase, but we [have] maximum respect for our opponents.”
Canada kicks off its tournament against Belgium on Nov. 23, before facing 2018 World Cup finalist Croatia on Nov. 27 and Morocco on Dec. 1.
Canada, which came first in the CONCACAF qualification group, last appeared at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, where it lost all three of its games and failed to score a goal.
Cristiano Ronaldo will open his fifth straight World Cup by facing Ghana. Portugal is the favorite to top Group H, which also includes Uruguay and South Korea.
Host Qatar will make its World Cup debut against Ecuador on Nov. 21. Netherlands, a three-time World Cup runner-up, and Senegal, the new African champion, completed Group A.
Defending champion France will face Denmark, Tunisia and the winner of the intercontinental playoff between Peru and the Australia vs. United Arab Emirates matchup in Group D.
2010 champion Spain will face 2014 winner Germany in a tough Group E with Japan and the winner of the Costa Rica vs. New Zealand playoff in June.
“It looks like a tough draw, but it could be easier as the tournament goes on”, Spain coach Luis Enrique said from Qatar. “There could be surprises. You don’t know how national teams are going to arrive that month. We need to enjoy it and be optimistic.”
Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia are quickly reunited after all were in the same group in 2018. Brazil will open against Serbia, which it beat 2-0 four years ago. Cameroon is the final member of Group G.
“My first reaction was, ‘Well, it won’t be new,'” Brazil coach Tite said about sharing the group with two teams from the previous World Cup. “If you look at the World Cup qualifiers that Serbia and Switzerland played against, Portugal and Italy, those were high-level games.”
The tournament will run from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18, the first time football’s top prize has been competed for in the Middle East.