Failure was not an option for the USMNT after missing out in 2018, and Gregg Berhalter’s men made it through a troublesome CONCACAF qualifying campaign by the skin of their teeth.
Despite succumbing to a 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica on the final matchday, the US locked down the third and final automatic qualification spot, finishing above Los Ticos on goal difference alone.
Berhalter’s side drew a blank in both international friendlies against Japan and Saudi Arabia during September’s international break (D1, L1), so it seems a bit off that they chose not to have a warm-up fixture this month.
Expectations are high among those back home, especially considering this exciting mix of up-and-coming talents and senior first-team stars stand as the tournament’s youngest average age of 24.5 years.
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Wales traditionally rely on experienced players to carry them through, with the Dragons skipper Gareth Bale, 33, bracing himself for his first and perhaps final World Cup tournament.
Rob Page’s lads have cut short the nation’s 64-year wait for the World Cup finals, though they took a long route to touch down in Qatar, having had to navigate the dreaded UEFA play-offs.
Bale’s match-winning performance earned them a 2-1 win over Austria in the semi-finals before the Los Angeles FC superstar’s free-kick sunk Ukraine in the final.
The 48-year-old Page now has to prove his credentials on the big scene as he is about to become the first manager to guide Wales at a World Cup since Jimmy Murphy in 1958.
The US’s 11th appearance at the World Cup and first since 2014 launches against a Wales side they have not lost to across their two previous meetings, both of which had a friendly nature (W1, D1).
While that may settle some nerves in Berhalter’s camp, his team’s woeful form across five matches leading to Qatar (W1, D3, L1) cannot inspire much belief.
On top of that, handling the world’s best attacks has historically proved a massive issue for the US, as they’ve kept a clean sheet only twice in their 27 outings at the World Cup.
Wales’ only previous appearance at the World Cup finals dating back to 1958 renders any historic stats meaningless, but the present doesn’t look bright by any stretch of the imagination.
Page’s team lost four of their six matches in the 2022/23 UEFA Nations League (W1, D1), including the last three on the trot, resulting in the nation’s relegation to League B.
It’s not all lost yet, especially before the kick-off, with Wales progressing from the group stages in the 2016 and 2020 UEFA European Championships.
United States vs Wales Potential Line-ups
United States (4-3-3): Ethan Horvath; Sergino Dest, Tim Ream, Walker Zimmerman, Antonee Robinson; Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Brenden Aaronson; Christian Pulisic, Giovanni Reyna, Haji Wright.
Wales (4-4-2): Wayne Hennessey; Neco Williams, Chris Mepham, Joe Rodon, Connor Roberts; Aaron Ramsey, Dylan Levitt, Harry Wilson, Dan James; Gareth Bale, Kieffer Moore.
United States vs Wales Prediction
If the US are to secure progression into the World Cup knockout stage as they’ve done in four of their last seven tournaments, flying out of the traps could be the key.
However, their patchy form, combined with Wales’ immense desire to shine in their first World Cup appearance since 1958, could sway things the other way.
Bale’s experience in these high-octane moments will likely give the Dragons a leg-up as we back Page’s side to play down the odds.
United States 1-2 Wales
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