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U.S. takes on England in the World Cup after it tied Wales in group play

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The United States men's soccer team took on powerhouse England at the World Cup today. The Americans looked nervous in the opening minutes, but quickly became more confident, matching their opponents stride for stride. And the final score reflected just that. It was a 0-0 draw, the first in World Cup history for the U.S. men. NPR's Tom Goldman is in Doha, Qatar. He was at the stadium. And, Tom, both teams had their chances to score. Tell us what stood out to you today.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Well, it was a hard fought, clean and very quick match - only a total of five minutes of extra time in a tournament that's seen huge chunks of extra time tacked on for injuries or fouls or penalties or celebrations. There were no celebrations because there were no scores, as you said, but plenty of chances, lots of shots by both teams. But everything missed or was repelled by good defense. You know, Ari, I think for the U.S., there's some positive feelings here for playing a really good match for the entire match. The first match against Wales, they had a great first half but then kind of faded in the second. And the U.S. should also feel good about holding what looked like a very potent English offense scoreless. Remember, England beat Iran 6-2 with five different scorers in the first match of their World Cup campaign. So that's quite an accomplishment.

SHAPIRO: Looking on the bright side of what was ultimately not a win. What's the reaction been so far as you've heard today?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, it was funny. When the final whistle blew, a good part of the 68,000-plus here booed. They wanted a more concrete result, but it wasn't to be. And, Ari, an American fan, scoreless ties can be exciting. And it was an exciting match. The U.S. forward Christian Pulisic said the U.S. should have a lot of confidence. They battled toe to toe with a very solid team. He said, we should be proud of their performance and should give us confidence into the next match next Tuesday versus Iran. And midfielder Weston Mckennie said, we were all-in. Our goal was to try and play our best and I think that's what we did.

SHAPIRO: Well, speaking of Iran, in another match today, in the same group that the U.S. and England are in, Iran beat Wales 2-0. Both goals came in the final minutes. Tell us about that.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. It was a thrilling match. The sad thing about that match, though, was the stark contrast between the Iranian players' euphoria on the field and some ugly moments off the pitch between fans supporting the protest movement going on now in Iran and those supporting the current Iranian government. Qatar's security people sided with the pro-government fans. Security reportedly seized flags and T-shirts supporting the protest movement. And pro-government Iranians ripped pre-revolution Persian flags out of protesters' hands and harassed protesters wearing shirts with the slogan of the Iranian protest movement - women, life, freedom. Both Iran games now have had notable protests. So the U.S. plays Iran next week and we're expecting maybe more. It's kind of an unfortunate side of this.

SHAPIRO: And just in a couple sentences, what do the results of today's two games mean for the U.S. chances to advance to the next round?

GOLDMAN: It means that this group, Group B, England has 4 points, Iran 3 points, U.S. 2 points, and Wales 1. They are jam packed together. Essentially, what it means for the U.S., which plays Iran next Tuesday - win and you're in. You finish in the top two in the group, you will move on to the knockout stage. And who knows what glory will await then?

SHAPIRO: OK. That's NPR's Tom Goldman in Doha, Qatar. Thanks a lot.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.
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