The saddest thing about the England-USA rivalry? For most Americans it doesn’t exist

Alex Morgans celebration aside, Jill Elliss team smothered Englands passion and spirit with the most hurtful sentiment of all: indifference

The saddest thing about the England-USA rivalry? For most Americans it doesn't exist

In the hyped-up build-up, the fine margins that decided the match and the most condescending cup of tea in history, we might detect the ingredients for an enduring rivalry between the US and England.

But that would require a similar level of emotional investment on both sides of the Atlantic, and the Americans are beyond the kind of enmities that drive narratives. Jill Elliss team smothered Englands passion and spirit with the most hurtful sentiment of all: indifference. Its not that the US didnt enjoy their victory, but you get the impression theyd have been just as happy to beat Germany, Australia or Paraguay.

The USs record under Ellis now stands at: played 126, won 101, lost seven. Do they even have a true rival? Previously, you could have argued for Canada; but given that the all-time head-to-head record is 49 American wins and three losses, its more through familiarity and geographic proximity than any intrigue about what might happen on the pitch. At this point, the USs biggest foes are probably their own tight-fisted federation, or the president of their country.

The 2-1 US win in the semi-final in Lyon called to mind the scene on the Death Star before it vaporises a planet. Down on the surface its a hive of nervous energy and excitement as the tenacious underdogs scramble to mount their makeshift defences and gutsy counter-attacks. Up in the command centre, the view is calm and orderly as the workers carry out their instructions by rote, flicking a few switches to activate the superlaser. For the rebels, its the defining battle of their lives. For the empire, its just Tuesday.

England dipped into derangement after Steph Houghtons penalty was saved, with Millie Bright sent off and Demi Stokes dropping the ball to concede a foul throw, while the US shepherded out the match with inevitable efficiency; doing just enough, as in the quarter-final against France.

The British media tried its best to provoke some conflict after the pre-game revelation that a couple of US staffers were found in Englands hotel, touring it as an option ahead of the final. Investigating the location of the breakfast buffet and the price of a 500ml bottle of Evian from the mini-bar was shaped into a spy scandal, as if Phil Neville might have accidentally left START RACHEL DALY OUT WIDE scrawled on the whiteboard in the Fourvire Hotels meeting room.

Tuesdays semi-final would be a grudge match, declared the Daily Star; England fury at World Cup Spygate row: Manager Phil Neville in war of words with the US, roared the Daily Mail. While England were planting a St Georges Cross on the moral high ground and fussing over why the Americans couldnt just read the reviews on TripAdvisor, the US simply went about their business before and during the match, paying due deference to the oppositions threat but not reserving any singular treatment for Nevilles team, save for a taunt.

Alex Morgan clearly likes her tea served ice-cold. (Although someone should tell her that we increasingly prefer coffee these days.) Her Lyon Tea Party celebration was the most withering put-down since the exchange between the characters Martin and Bob, a school bully, when they meet again as adults in the 1997 film, Grosse Point Blank: Do you really believe that theres some stored-up conflict that exists between us? There is no us. We dont exist. Having said that, the US annoying England with their celebrations wasnt anything personal: they reserved the same treatment for Thailand and Chile.

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I dont think theres anything special about the England match-up in particular on the womens side everyone elses biggest game is against us, one American friend told me before the game. With the women, were the imperialist juggernaut that everyone wants to knock down.

No added edge, said another. The US is a cut above everyone and the arrogance of the team, fans and media show it. Its the opposite to the men. In the moments after the US sealed their quarter-final against France, Megan Rapinoe admitted she didnt even know that England were up next.

In the mens game, English encounters with the US are freighted with a strange tension: a superiority complex masking deep-rooted anxiety, because if America ever overtakes us in football, then what, as a country, do we have left? Theyre even staging sold-out baseball games in a London football stadium during the Cricket World Cup!

That dynamic is absent in the womens game, given the USs long-held supremacy and Englands more recent strides. Still, there is something about the nations psyche that craves American attention and respect – the UK, after all, is a country willing to spend 18m of taxpayers money so that Donald Trump could play golf in Scotland and visit Windsor Castle, in the same year it closed about 130 public libraries.

And what do we get in return? Perhaps a few crates of value-priced chlorinated chicken after 31 October, and a deserved defeat where there was more talk Stateside about a player who didnt even take the field – Megan Rapinoe – than about anything the England team did.

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