The United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) worked hard for a spot in the knockout stages of the World Cup with a tough 1-0 win over Iran in a tense Group B tiebreaker in Qatar 2022.
Christian Pulisic’s first-half goal split the two sides as the US advanced to the last 16 for the first time since 2014.
Qatar’s Gregg Berhalter’s side were undoubtedly under pressure after their national team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but the US got the job done with three gritty group stage performances.
It certainly wasn’t rosy at times, especially in the closing stages against Iran, but progressing through the group stages was the minimum to expect from this exciting young side.
There will be some concerns going into the knockout stages, though, after Pulisic suffered an abdominal injury in scoring the winner.
The USMNT will be hoping its star player, dubbed “Captain America” by some, will be available for Saturday’s round of 16 match against the Netherlands following news that Pulisic has been taken to hospital for scans.
It was the only third ever meeting between the two countries and their first World Cup meeting since France in 1998 – a politically charged match that Iran won with a stunning 2-1 scoreline.
It was the first time Iran and the United States (sometimes officially described in Iran as “The Great Satan”) met on a football field and the biggest sporting event between the two countries since the 1979 revolution.
Preparations for the match in Qatar were equally intense, with Iran even calling for the USMNT to be expelled from the World Cup after US Soccer posted an Iranian flag without the Islamic Republic symbol on its social media platforms. Show support for Iranian protesters.
USMNT manager Berhalter and captain Tyler Adams also faced some pointed questions from Iranian journalists during the heated press conference to fend off accusations of hypocrisy and disrespect.
The furor surrounding the match only added to the drama of a game — even in a vacuum far from off-field issues — that was sure to be fraught with tension.
Both teams know a win will secure them a spot in the round of 16, but for the USMNT, even a draw won’t be enough to catapult them out of their group.
There weren’t many early signs of nervousness in the USMNT, as Berhalter’s side dominated the opening stages – with 65 per cent possession – although it didn’t get its first chance to be noticed until the 28th minute.
Josh Sargeant’s shot from long-range blocked an Iranian defender and fell perfectly into the path of Timothy Weah, who probably didn’t realize he was alone in front of goal, and headed into the goal of Iran’s Alireza Beiranvand with ease .
On the half-hour mark, Weah again had an excellent position inside the box, but his shot went over the bar after being crossed by Sargent.
The USMNT’s pressure finally came into play seven minutes before half-time, taking the lead after a sharp move by the team.
Weston McKennie’s pinpoint cross was headed back by a predatory Sergiño Dest and was bravely headed home by Pulisic, who collided badly with Beiranvand as the ball rolled over the baseline.
The USMNT’s joy quickly turned to worry as Pulisic, who was clearly in pain after the clash, limped off the pitch with the help of two medical staff.
Pulisic was soon back on the pitch, but the Chelsea man was clearly still struggling with the knock.
With the USMNT’s confidence growing and Iran’s defensive space starting to open up, Weah thought he doubled his team’s lead before the break, finishing with a fine finish on the outside of his boot, only to be in the final The flag was touched by the linesman when the narrow was decided offside.
While Iran was happy to ride out the first-half storm, it was a surprisingly underwhelming performance – especially after Pulisic’s goal – from a side that gave England and Wales both caused defensive problems.
Iran did start the second half with more authority, creating two superb chances for Saman Ghoddos, but the Brentford striker was unable to trouble USMNT keeper Matt Turner.
With time running out, Iran had a chance to equalize but Morteza Pouraliganji’s header just wide of the far post was a relief to the American fans in the stands, many of whom had their heads buried. in hand.
In the ninth minute of extra time, Iranian players clamored for a penalty, with Mehdi Taremi insisting that Cameron Carter-Vickers pulled the Porto striker down when he tried to complete a cross.
After a brief, tense check, VAR ruled it was not a penalty and referee Mateu Lahoz blew the end-of-game whistle shortly afterwards.
Both teams fell to the floor – for very different reasons – but the USMNT knew it had to improve its performance if it was to have any chance of advancing further in Qatar.
After the loss, an emotional Saeid Ezatolahi asked the Iranian fans for forgiveness.
After a crucial 2-0 win over Wales, Iran went into their final match in a strong position, needing only a draw to progress, but a disappointing performance in the knockout stages.
“On behalf of our players, our team, I’m very sorry that we didn’t get the chance to advance to the next round,” the midfielder said.
“Life and football go on and it’s a good lesson for us, at least for young players like me. So I hope our fans and the people of Iran forgive us, I’m sorry, That’s it.”
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz says “the dream is over” but is already looking to the future.
“The first half was America, the second half was Iran,” said Queiroz, Iran’s longest-serving coach, coaching the team from 2011 to 2019 and then again in September.
“the difference [was] We didn’t score as much as we should have in the second half. But, the dream is over. Now, it’s looking at Iran’s next steps,” added Quieroz, the only coach to lead a team to back-to-back World Cups.