Fox Sports Insider
DOHA, Qatar – Christian Pulisic scored a goal in a 1-0 win over Iran on Tuesday night to lead the United States to the knockout stages of the World Cup, and that’s exactly what anyone needed to know.
Because that’s what it is, an all or nothing game where winning is everything and everything else is losing. Pulisic, the superstar figurehead of the young American team, saw the equation, liked it and decided to choose the “win” option.
He also paid for it. Greg Behalter’s American displayed heroism and ferocious determination at the Altuma Polo, while Pulisic fought to save the only goal of the match in the most desperate of ways.
In the 38th minute, towards the end of the first half, facing an ill-advised all-out Iranian defense, Weston McKennie got the ball in midfield and found right-back Serginio Dest in front of the flank. insert. McKennie’s floater was nodded by Durst and Pulisic won the game, heading home from a few yards.
And then… crunch. The 24-year-old American, who has won the Champions League with Chelsea and seemed destined for the top flight since his first break into the national team as a teenager, had a clash with Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beranwand. Severe crash, breathless for a few minutes on the turf.
USA’s Christian Pulisic scores against Iran in 38 minutes
He struggled until halftime, but did not return to action after the break and was replaced by Brendon Aaronson. He was taken to hospital for scans with abdominal injuries. He’s done enough, if you think “enough” is enough to score the most immediately important goal by an American player in 12 years.
The Americans then face the Netherlands in their last-16 clash on Saturday, in which they will be a pretty big underdog. Don’t write them off, though, and don’t underestimate the emotional lift you’ll get from this game, a victory in a politically charged race over the past few days.
They could have taken the game even further beyond Iran’s two breakthroughs just before half-time, one where Josh Sargent and Timothy Weah failed to connect, the other as Weah put the ball into the net, But was ruled offside earlier.
Suddenly, however, the task at hand changed, for both teams. Iran can no longer sit still and pressure them as they seek the balanced goals needed to get their country to the knockout rounds for the first time in their history.
52′ Saman Ghoddos header from 6 yards was over the bar under pressure from Dest.
Perhaps seeing the folly of Iranian coach Carlos Queiroz’s extremely cautious tactics, the Americans did not take the lead, although the Iranians proved effective in the breakaway, speedy striker Mehdi Taremi and Sardar Azmoun prepares to pounce.
It’s a different Iran now, no more 10 players behind the ball as a defensive wall. No more taking forever for throw-ins and free kicks.
Americans also have new priorities. Berhalter took aback when he announced his roster, introducing linebacker Cameron Carter-Vickers, making his debut for the tournament, and relegating Walker Zimmerman to the bench. Presumably, it wasn’t because of Zimmermann’s brilliant performance alongside Tim Rehm in the 0-0 win against England, but because of the potential threat from set-pieces.
Carter-Vickers now had to play his part in the onslaught, blocking striker Mehdi Taremi hard as he pushed forward.
However, Iran is creating opportunities. Ghoddos was active in midfield, receiving the ball unmarked inside the box, but his shot was just over Matt Turner’s crossbar.
Turner barely needed to play in the first half as possession fell almost entirely to the American and he gradually became busy. Earlier, with a look of excitement on his face as he sang the national anthem before the game, he wiped the flag on his chest.
Later, his face contorted again, this time in defiance, as Morteza Prariganj headed a free-kick wide.
It was the nerve-wracking final moment, the part that American fans were not prepared for. With so much talk about the need to score goals in build-ups, one part that gets overlooked is the need to prevent goals.
Deandre Yedlin and Josh Sargent hug Iran’s Saeid Ezatolahi after the game. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Now, this is the most important thing. Calm as ever, Turner commanded from inside the box and one of his finest moments came when he received a through ball without fear, even though he knew he would hit Taremi’s calf.
no pain no gain. Same for him. Same goes for Pulisic. The price of winning. Much better than the pain of failure.
Iran vs. US Highlights
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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. You can subscribe to the daily newsletter here.
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