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USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter says ‘formidable’ England are FAVORITES to win World Cup

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Gregg Berhalter praised Gareth Southgate for untying England and turning them into superheroes — and backing the Three Lions to win the World Cup.

The US manager will use his wits against Southgate in Qatar in the second game of Group F, which will also see Wales and Iran.

And New Jersey-born Berhalter, who became the first Crystal Palace player to play in a World Cup in 2002, also said the achievements of Sarina Wiegman’s European champions could provide additional motivation for Southgate’s side to succeed in the Middle East.

Gregg Berhalter is candid about his thoughts on the US World Cup group opponents

The USMNT coach also backed Christian Pulisic to thrive when the tournament kicks off

The USMNT coach also backed Christian Pulisic to thrive when the tournament kicks off

Berhalter was effusive in his praise for England, saying they could be the favorites to win it

Berhalter was effusive in his praise for England, saying they could be the favorites to win it

“I think they will become one of the favorites to win the World Cup, if not the favorite,” says Berhalter. “All the players except Jude Bellingham play in the Premier League, it is the strongest league in the world. Week in, week out you are challenged with competition at the highest level, and that only makes the players stronger.

“Once it comes to the World Cup, they will be a formidable team to beat.”

Berhalter, 49, is looking beyond England’s recent poor run, which stretched to seven games without a win after Monday’s 3-3 draw against Germany.

“When he has his best team, he performs well with it. They came fourth at the last World Cup and second at the European Championship,” he exclaims.

In short, the depth chart is awesome. I mean every international manager would want to have the England squad just because of how deep they are. And you can go in some positions, you can go five or six deep and be happy with the player in that position. I mean, it’s incredible to watch their right-backs!’

England and the US have met twice before in World Cups: an ignominious 1-0 defeat in 1950 and an excruciating 1-1 draw in Rustenburg 12 years ago.

“I don’t know if expectations have always been in line with the quality of the team. So in 2010, realistically, I didn’t think they had the squad that can win the World Cup, right? But now it’s different. Now I think we can all agree that they have a squad that can win the World Cup.

And Gareth has done a great job, in my opinion, of helping the players deal with that pressure and actually using the jersey as a cape rather than a straitjacket and really giving them the freedom to play on the pitch, which they got the idea that they can represent their country in a positive way and make the country proud,” he added at an MLS event in Minneapolis last month.

The US begins its campaign against Wales, with the sides meeting in October 2020 for a 0-0 draw in Cardiff.

“It was a good team, a very difficult team to score against, a physical team, a lot of Premier League players, some really high quality in attack, good defenders,” said Behalter.

Berhalter says Gareth Southgate has a 'crazy' amount of depth in his English ranks

Berhalter says Gareth Southgate has a ‘crazy’ amount of depth in his English ranks

Berhalter also spoke highly of Wales, against whom the United States will play first in Qatar

Berhalter also spoke highly of Wales, against whom the United States will play first in Qatar

“I’m interested to see how we deal with Wales primarily when we play against them, but also how Wales interact with the other teams in the group, especially England. There is a fierce rivalry there. So it will be an exciting group, you don’t often get three native English-speaking teams in the same group.’

Berhalter was a reliable center who was half capped 44 times by his country. Fluent in Dutch and German after stints in the Eredivisie and Bundesliga, Berhalter models himself on Pep Guardiola.

Berhalter was hired in 2018 after the US failed to qualify for Russia – the first World Cup they have missed since Mexico 86 – and has a home tournament to look forward to in four years, along with Canada and Mexico.

Berhalter left his degree from the University of North Carolina early to play in Europe. He lovingly talks about the achievements of fellow alumnus Sarina Wiegman this summer.

‘She’s a Tar Heel (went to UNC)! So I think that’s the first important thing to mention,” he laughs.

“Seeing what happened made me think about our 99 team, that’s right, organizing the World Cup, captivating the country and then winning.

“I’m sure it will inspire the nation to get even more behind the team for the World Cup, and hopefully the men will do something similar.

“I remember we were just on the heels of the women who won 99 when we went running in 2002. And it really gave us the motivation to say, ‘Okay, we want to make the nation proud too. We also want to push.”

Berhalter is impressed by Sandra Wiegman's impact on women's football in England

Berhalter is impressed by Sandra Wiegman’s impact on women’s football in England

The USMNT coach has yet to settle for his strongest lineup for the November opener

The USMNT coach has yet to settle for his strongest lineup for the November opener

Like Southgate, Berhalter is at home grumbling after a vacant lot in which the US has won once against six World Cup teams this year.

He prefers a 4-3-3 and has yet to settle for his strongest 11, but it should feature Champions League winner Christian Pulisic, despite the American being on the periphery at Chelsea.

“He is a goalscorer. He’s a winner,” says Berhalter. “What I’ve seen of him over the past few years is his mentality has completely changed and he embraces this kind of thing. He is not afraid of these kinds of challenges. And I’m excited to see how he performs this year.”

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