World Cup: Ex-USMNT winger Eddie Lewis claims ‘anything’s possible’ before England-USA clash
Ex-USMNT winger Eddie Lewis has advised Gregg Berhalter’s men to ‘keep the score close’ against rivals England and then better Wales’ result against Iran in their final Group B game – but claims ‘anything’s possible’ at a World Cup.
The ex-Fulham, Preston North End, Leeds United and Derby County player featured at two World Cups for the Star and Stripes.
His first involvement was in 2002, being part of the most successful American run at a World Cup since 1930, when the US reached the quarterfinals only to lose to Germany (0-1), who’d go on to lose to Brazil in the final.
Nearly 90 years ago, the US reached the semifinals of what was the first World Cup ever – the team’s best finish at a major international tournament to date.
Lewis also appeared at the 2006 World Cup, when the US crashed out of the group stages after losing to the Czech Republic, drawing against Italy and losing again to Ghana. In total, the California-native played for the Star and Stripes 82 times, scoring 10 goals between 1996 and 2008.
The US – the second youngest team at the World Cup with an average age of 24.7 years old – faces a daunting task playing against rivals and favorites England on Friday
England currently occupies top spot of Group B after emphatically beating Iran 6-2 on Monday
Ex-US winger Eddie Lewis, 44, is the co-founder of TOCA, earned 82 US international caps
‘If you’re asking my heart or my head, those are probably two different answers,’ Lewis said when asked for his prediction for Friday’s match in Al Khor – roughly 51 miles north of Doha, Qatar’s capital.
‘I think the logical approach is that now you kind of want this group to become a goal difference group to a certain extent. You want to keep it close with England and then try to make sure you beat Iran by more than Wales does but you know, you’ve seen some interesting results already so anything’s possible in this World Cup.’
According to the former UCLA Bruin, recent upsets, including Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 win over favorites Argentina, has made fans ‘understand the world’s getting a lot smaller’ in terms of ‘footballing nations as dominant players.’
‘Everybody can put 11, 12, or 15 really, really good players together so I think we’ll see more of these types of results, just like we’ve seen today,’ Lewis added, referring to Japan’s late comeback against four- time champions Germany (1-2) on Wednesday.
Lewis scored 10 goals for his nation and played at two World Cups – in 2002 and 2006.
Timothy Weah has so far scored the only goal for the US in Qatar in a 1-1 draw against Wales
Asked about whether the Star and Stripes have the tools to pull a few results in their favour, knowing that 17 out of 26 Americans on the current roster plays in Europe, the former LA Galaxy player, who took the pitch alongside David Beckham from 2008 to 2010, said: ‘As far as these players today, they’re a young team but they’re so talented and they’re already playing at big clubs in big leagues, and I really think it’s just about gaining some more international experience.
‘But they’re certainly ready and capable to go to heights that the US has never gone to and I’m hoping that they do so!’
America’s 26-man squad is the second youngest team at the World Cup, with an average age of 25.2. In first place is Ghana with an average age of 24.7.
The oldest team in Qatar is Iran, as their players combine for an average age of 28.9. Second is Mexico (28.5), followed by Lionel Messi’s Argentina (27.9), with the PSG star competing at his fifth World Cup (2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018).
Lewis said belief and proving doubters wrong will get the Star & Stripes far at the World Cup
‘They’re so talented and they’re already playing at big clubs in big leagues,’ the ex-winger said
‘These guys are on the younger side, but they are all professionals,’ Lewis said of some of the US’ top prospects, which include 20-year-old Giovanni Reyna, as well as Yunus Musah and Joe Scally, both 19.
They’ve been playing consistently in top leagues around the world. Many play in England so they’re very comfortable with English players and the English style of play,” the ex-winger said of the likes of Chelsea’s attacking player Christian Pulisic, and Leeds United’s favorite American duo – Brenden Aaronson and captain Tyler Adams.
‘I don’t think there’s huge expectations on the team. If anything, England is probably the team under the most pressure so it’s really just about going out and playing free and really kind of going for it. We’ll see where the result lies.’
In 2002, the US reached the quarterfinals before being knocked out by Germany (pictured).
Speaking on his experience of being part of the Star and Stripes’ second-best ever World Cup finish in South Korea and Japan in 2002, with the likes of USMNT legends Landon Donovan and Brian McBride, Lewis said the secret was to ‘keep belief’. ‘
‘I think internally, the group had its own expectations and its own kind of belief. When you look at the odds in 2022 in our group in particular, Portugal and Poland would have been the favorites to get out of the group.
‘South Korea, who was also in our group was a host nation and host nations traditionally do very well also, so America was in a very difficult spot in terms of its group, but it was about that belief that we were trying to prove people wrong.
‘We had been doing that in really most of our careers, so I think this was just an opportunity to do it on the world stage and fortunately, we were able to come good in that commitment.’
Lewis was part of the US team that had registered its second best World Cup finish after 1930
Prior to advancing to the knockout stages, the US beat a Portuguese team led by Luis Figo 3-2, before drawing against South Korea 1-1 and losing to Poland 1-3, collecting four points out of a possible nine.
The Star and Stripes then defeated arch-rivals Mexico 2-0 in the tournament’s round of 16 before Michael Ballack’s 39th-minute winner in the quarterfinals killed off the American Dream of reaching what could’ve been the US’ joint-best finish at a World Cup.
‘It was really about, at the time, moving US Soccer forward into a new dimension in terms of its ability to now attract teams from Europe for their players,’ Lewis said, reflecting on the US’ journey in Asia from 20 years ago.
‘It really kind of launched the fandom in the US from soccer being an outside sport to now ”hey we belong on the world stage”, so you know there was so much with that [2002 World Cup] team that was trying to push that narrative and trying to take the US further, just outside of our personal careers.
‘I’m so grateful always to have been a part of that team and to have contributed in the way that I did.’
Nowadays, Lewis, 48, is the co-founder of TOCA, the world’s first interactive football and dining experience, with England captain Harry Kane an investor.
The USMNT will need to marshal the Tottenham striker to ‘keep it close’.
Eddie Lewis is co-founder of TOCA Social – the immersive football games and diving venue located at the O2 in London. World cup screenings are available to book at www.toca.social