The USA won the politically charged duel against Iran 1-0 (1-0) and thus reached the round of 16 of the World Cup. The Iranians failed to advance to the knockout stage for the first time in World Cup history.
Despite the political explosiveness of the clash and the emotionally heated atmosphere in the run-up to the game, the Americans remained calm, especially in the first half, and defeated Iran 1-0 (1-0). Christian Pulisic scored the lead before the break (38′). In the second half, the Iranians got stronger and had several chances to equalize, but the shots were too hectic and imprecise. With a bit of luck and good nerves, the Americans brought the result over time. US coach Gregg Berhalter said afterwards: “We had to be strong in our heads, the boys did well.” Iran coach Carlos Queiroz summed it up with disappointment: “We were missing a goal. The dream is over.”
Iran misses historic World Cup round of 16 participation
With the win, the USA finished second in Group B and meet the Netherlands in the round of 16 (December 3, 4 p.m. CET). The Iranians still have to wait for their first round of 16 participation in World Cup history.
Dortmund’s Reyna again not in the starting XI of the USA
Giovanni Reyna from Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund was not in the starting XI in the third group game of the USA either. Reyna’s reservist role has recently been a big topic of conversation in the United States. Ali Beiranvand returned to goal for the Iranians after suffering a concussion. Leverkusen striker Sardar Azmoun also started again.
USA controls the game, Iran counters
It was clear early on what character this game would take on: the Americans, who had to win to progress, took control and consequently had the ball for much longer. The Iranians lurked to play quickly forward after winning the ball. What both teams had in common: Right from the start they fought every duel with great passion.
The spectators in the Al-Thumama Stadium did not initially see any great chances, but overall the USA made the more dangerous impression. Headers from Christian Pulisic (11′) and Timothy Weah (27′) were saved by Iran’s keeper Beiranvand, and he repelled a sharp cross from Sergiño Dest (17′). The longer the game went on, the more pressure the Americans put on the narrow and deep Iranian defence.
Pulisic shoots USA against Iran deserved lead
It was logical that the USA took the lead (38th). Weston McKennie’s volley from behind the Iranian defense lined Dest in with a header to Pulisic, who pushed the ball over the line. He collided with Iran’s goalkeeper Beiranvand and had to be treated in pain. He was substituted at half-time.
With a little more cleverness and luck, coach Gregg Berhalter’s team could have done it before the break: Tyler Adams created a majority situation with an opening pass, which Weah and Josh Sargent tried to exploit with a double one-two. Ultimately, however, Majid Hosseini just got in the way. And when Weah made it 2-0 after a through ball, he was just offside. At the end of the first half, the United States had eight shots to zero, but only a 1-0 lead.
Iran is becoming bolder and is the better team
The Americans also started the second half energetically. Sargent’s shot from a tight angle saved Beiranvand from following up (47′). The Iranians, who became more passive from minute to minute in the first half, then had the opportunity to equalize out of nowhere: Substitute Saman Ghoddos headed over the goal after a cross from the right (52nd). A scene that showed how quickly this game could turn – and which encouraged the Iranians.
Driven by their loud fans, they played more determined, faster, more powerful, at least at times. Ghoddos again missed the chance to equalize when he fired wide from a good position to the right of a cross. The goal would not have counted, however, because an American had previously been fouled by Mehdi Taremi.
USA with little relief
The Iranians increased the pressure, but the USA could hardly free itself. When Ali Karimi, who was also a substitute, got the ball after a cross, the Iranian bank was already up to cheer – but Karimi didn’t hit the ball fully and missed the equalizer. The Iranians claimed Shag Moore’s handball, but rightly didn’t get a penalty.
Hectic final phase
The Iranians had more chances in the nine-minute stoppage time. Morteza Pouraliganji’s diving header went just wide of the left post. And when there were only a few seconds left on the clock, Taremi appeared in front of the American goal after a cross, straddled the ball through the legs of US keeper Matt Turner, but too weakly. Tamedi had previously been touched slightly and demanded a penalty – referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz correctly decided against a penalty again. The young American team became more nervous, but with luck and good nerves they kept the 1-0 lead.
US star Pulisic injured in the hospital
However, it was bitter for the USA that three players, Sargent, Pulisic and McKennie, had to leave the field injured. Whether they can play in the round of 16 is still questionable. Pulisic was hospitalized after his collision. A spokesman for the US Football Association confirmed that he would be examined on his stomach there. US media had previously reported that the former Dortmunder had been admitted to the hospital.
At the 1998 World Cup, Iran beat the United States
For the first time in 24 years, the two political arch-enemies competed against each other again at a World Cup. Even at the 1998 tournament in France, the game was charged, and the Iranians’ 2-1 win in Lyon is still celebrated by officials in the Islamic Republic as the greatest success in national football history. Due to the defeat this time and the missed progress, it will stay that way for the time being.