Fresh from winning group H, we were drawn against USA who had managed a second place finish in group G . (You can reflect the group matches through the link).
The whole team was in buoyant mood after hearing the second round draw. Having played “Team America” back in March with an experimental team. We had managed a 3-1 win with Raheem and Reg banging in the goals. With this still fresh in our minds we were confident that we would progress to the quarter finals.
This time round rather than the comforts of home (Wembley) we played them at a wet and breezy Samara Arena, located in the city of Samara in the South East region of Russia.
With the conditions more like a summers day in Blackburn rather than the Costa Del Sol, we looked to rotate the troops again. With fatigue on our mind I looked to play TAA and Luke Shaw in the Wing Back roles, Ox and Lingard as our attacking wide men, and this time round Mags was employed as the Libero. We also took the punt of playing an all Spurs Central Midfield with Alli and Winks.
The early exchanges saw a short corner between Lingard and Alli eventually find its way to the edge of the 18 yard box to Harry Winks. Who in turn rifles a peach of a shot at goal. The ball hits the back of the net albeit due to a ricochet off USA Captain Michael Bradley.
Midway in to the first half we have a scare when a long ball placed between our defence and goalkeeper sees US striker Johannsson break free beyond a very pedestrian Gary Cahill. Who manages to cross a lovely ball in to the box to Altidore. Who then smashes the ball goalward for Pickford to pull off an awesome save to his left.
Around the 30 minute mark we intercept the ball on the halfway line for Dele Alli to pin point a beautiful through ball to Harry Winks who runs beyond the US defence to slot in a shot at goal at his near post.
The second half starts at a exhibition style pace, with our boys playing keep ball rather than pressing for the third. This lack of urgency is punished at the stroke of 55 minutes when the US switch play from the right to the left to find Fabian Johnson unmarked and free in space deep in our half. Johnson buries a left foot rocket to see the Americans revive their chances in the game.
The game is finally put to bed in the 82nd minute when we are given a freekick on the edge of the box after a foul on Harry Kane. TAA calls to take the kick and boy does he score a beauty. TAA strikes the ball hard but with the right amount of lift to just go over the wall and then beat the keeper high in the top right corner.
With renewed belief and after shouting blue murder at the boys for slacking off earlier they remained focussed to see out the game. We win 3-1 to progress to the Quarter Final of the World Cup.