Up-and-coming players from 32 nations have the opportunity to showcase their talents during the upcoming World Cup. Which ones will rise to the occasion and garner some serious attention on the transfer market?
Julian Green, Zack Steffen and a young U.S. soccer team showed what might have been — and what could be in 4½ years.
Green scored in the 44th minute, Steffen made seven saves and the Americans held on against tremendous pressure to tie World Cup-bound France 1-1 Saturday night at Lyon.
Kylian Mbappe tied the score in the 78th minute when he got to Benjamin Pavard’s cross for an open 9-yard shot as defender Cameron Carter-Vickers slipped. France outshot the Americans 19-2.
“It was a petty surreal game,” said the 23-year-old Steffen, who in just in his third international appearance made a sprawling save on Nabil Kekir’s long-range shot near the end of stoppage time, got up and reached back to push wide Ousmane Dembele’s attempt off the rebound.
Seventh-ranked France had been 3-0 against the U.S. in prior meetings, outscoring the Americans 10-0. Steffen is among a half-dozen goalkeepers in the competition to succeed Tim Howard as the U.S. No. 1.
“There were a couple moments tonight that were spectacular,” U.S. interim coach Dave Sarachan said. “I don’t think it would be fair to start rating all the goalies, but Zack certainly made a great case for himself.”
The U.S. opened in a 5-3-2 formation and started just one player with 10 previous international appearances and all were 25 or younger. At 22 years, 183 days, the lineup’s average age was the second-youngest since records began in 1990.
France, among the World Cup favorites, came closest in the first half when Paul Pogba hit a post in the fifth minute. Les Bleus were booed and whistled at halftime by the crowd of 58,241. The 1998 champions open against Australia on June 16, meet Peru five days later and close the first round versus Denmark on June 26.
“It’s an intimidating game and in an intimidating environment,” said 25-year-old American defender Tim Parker, who made his first start after debuting at Ireland last week.
The U.S. hoped to be heading to a base camp in St. Petersburg, Russia, for its eighth straight World Cup but shockingly was eliminated with a loss at Trinidad and Tobago last October. Bruce Arena quit as coach and was replaced for now by Sarachan, his top assistant.
Sarachan has guided the team to a 2-1-3 record, giving 17 players debuts in his first five matches. Former U.S. midfielder Earnie Stewart, hired this week as general manager of the U.S. team starting Aug. 1, will lead the search for a new coach and had an introductory meeting with players on Friday.
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Green scored against Belgium in extra time in the second round of the 2014 World Cup but largely disappeared over the next few years. The 23-year-old midfielder, having failed to earn playing time at Bayern Munich and Stuttgart, spent last season with second-tier Greuther Fuerth in Germany, and he scored the goal that saved the club from relegation to the third division.
Making his first U.S. start since October 2016, he got his fourth goal in 10 international appearances.
Shaq Moore exchanged passes with Bobby Wood, and the 21-year-old Moore made a run down the right flank and crossed past Benjamin Mendy. Djibril Sidibe failed with a left-footed clearance attempt, and Green ran onto the bouncing ball, spun his right leg and from 9 yards sent the ball between Sidibe’s legs, beating goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to the near post with a one-hopper.
“The defender made a mistake and I just turned and shot,” Green said.
Notes: French forward Olivier Giroud and Miazga left in the 59th minute after a clash of heads that caused both to be down for several minutes. Sarachan said Miazga needed 15 stitches to close a cut but did not sustain a concussion. Miazga was replaced by Erik Palmer-Brown. … Bobby Wood put the ball in the net in the 48th minute but it was disallowed for offside. … Sarachan said the USSF has had conversations with Theoson-Jordan Siebatcheu, a 22-year-old forward who scored 17 goals last season for Stade de Reims, which earned him a promotion to Ligue 1. Siebatcheu has played for France’s Under-21 team; he was born in Washington, D.C., and is eligible to switch to the U.S. program. … The Americans likely will play next against Brazil on Sept. 7 at East Rutherford, New Jersey.
United States — Zack Steffen; Shaq Moore (DeAndre Yedlin, 74th), Cameron Carter-Vickers, Matt Miazga (Erik Palmer-Brown, 57th), Tim Parker, Antonee Robinson (Jorge Villafana, 82nd); Tyler Adams, Wil Trapp, Weston McKennie; Julian Green (Joe Corona, 70th), Bobby Wood (Josh Sargent, 74th)
France — Hugo Lloris; Djibril Sidibe (Benjamin Pavard, 74th), Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Benjamin Mendy (Lucas Hernandez, 66th); N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi (Corentin Tolisso, 58th); Antoine Griezmann (Nabil Fekir, 69th), Kylian Mbappe (Thomas Lemar, 87th), Olivier Giroud (Ousmane Dembele, 58th)
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