The United States won its first victory at the World Cup in Qatar and also secured a place in the round of 16. The classification came in a game with controversial geopolitical contours. The US team overcame Iran by 1-0, today (29), at Al Thumama Stadium, in Doha, and finished in second place in Group B, behind England. The opponent of the next phase will be the Netherlands.
The Iranians entered the field with the advantage of the draw, since they had one more point in the table in front of the direct opponent. On the US side, only victory mattered. The selection of the North American country started with great intensity, controlling the actions and putting pressure on the Asian team, which was armed to defend itself and try to react in counterattacks.
However, Iran failed to create any opportunities in the first stage and did not resist the American artillery. Pulisic, number 10 for the USA, opened the scoring and almost had to be substituted for having collided with the opposing goalkeeper. The USA still had a goal disallowed before the break and held the uninspired Iranian attack in the second half.
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With the victory, the USA reached five points, surpassed Iran, with three, and guaranteed the second place for the knockout stage. England, who beat Wales 3-0 in the other tie, finished first with seven. Gareth Bale’s selection was at the bottom, with one point. The teams that are still alive in the tournament will face the qualifiers of Group A.
The semifinal duels, therefore, will be Holland x USA and England x Senegal. The matches will be played next Saturday (3).
The duel between the teams, in addition to being decisive, was highly anticipated due to the off-field tension and imminent danger of armed conflict between the countries. The match featured the possibility of “revenge” from Iran after the direct US strike in 2020, which resulted in the death of two of the most important Iranian leaders. In addition, a controversy over the Iranian flag used by the US federation on social media on the eve of the game left spirits even higher.
If behind the scenes the two federations clashed, with accusations of disrespect and a request to FIFA that the Americans be excluded from the Cup, the atmosphere among the fans was harmonious in the stands of the stadium. Iranians and Americans celebrated together upon arrival and cheered for their teams side by side in all sectors of the stadium.
Iranians and the anthem
Even before the ball was rolling, Iranian players were already in the international spotlight. That’s because CNN claimed that the Iranian government would be threatening to torture the athletes’ families if they didn’t “behave” during the playing of the national anthem. In the team’s debut in the Qatar Cup, against England, the holders refused to sing the anthem as a way of supporting women’s protests for more rights and freedom in the country.
Profiled, the players hugged each other during the execution and sang the anthem. Some more timidly, barely moving their mouths, others with a little more excitement.
US starts pressing
Needing the result, the North American team started on top of the opponents from the first minute. The team controlled the actions and rolled the ball through the attacking field, but they were unable to infiltrate the Iranian boom at first. The USA had a weak header from Pulisic, in the 11th minute, and some dangerous crosses in the area, but without actually threatening the goal saved by Beiranvand.
Despite the intensity of the North American country, the game was truncated due to Iran’s apathy on the field, which only defended itself and was unsuccessful in the few counterattacks that it tried.
Pulisic scores but stays down
After 38 minutes of insistence, the US managed to break through the Iranian blockade. McKennie masterfully reversed the game and sent a pitch to Dest. The lateral received it from the back of the defense and headed it into the middle of the area. Pulisic was faster than the defenders to reach the penalty area and pushed towards the goal, opening the scoring.
The American ace, however, got the worst of it when he collided with the Iranian goalkeeper after the kick and was stretched out on the lawn. He remained on the ground for about two minutes as he received attention and worried the coaching staff and teammates. The number 10 left the field with the support of the medical team, but managed to return to the game and did not need to be replaced immediately.
VAR disallows second goal
The USA even almost extended the score before the final stretch of the first half on two occasions. The first in a good offensive plot starring Sargent and Weah, but which ended up being thwarted by a wrong pass on the edge of the area. Afterwards, Weah was launched in depth and finished low in the goalkeeper’s exit, scoring the second goal. However, the goal was canceled due to the attacker’s impediment in the play.
warm second half
Pulisic did not return for the final stage and the dynamics of the game were changed. As the partial score classified the USA, Iran had to change its posture on the field and began to exchange more passes, seeking to corner the opponents to find a gap, but they continued without being successful in the attack.
The main Iranian chance came at 19′ of the second half. Nourollahi managed to get the better of a dispute to the right and crossed into the area. Taremi was unable to complete, but the ball reached Ghoddos, who hit it first, with a plate, but he tried to take too much of the goalkeeper and ended up sending it out.
Even with full pressure in the last minutes of the match, Iran failed to complete the few plays it created. They had a golden chance at lights out, but Taremi stopped Turner in a tackle close to the goal line. The Iranian team, during the whole game, finished only once in the goal defended by the American goalkeeper.
The USA also tried to take advantage of the spaces that Iran started to leave on the field to increase the advantage, but the score was not changed again. 1-0 and the first victory for the USA in the direct confrontation – the other duel took place in the group stage of the 1998 Cup, in France, and Iran won by 2-1.
Iran 0 x 1 USA
Tournament: 3rd round of World Cup Group B
Place: Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar
Date and time: November 29, 2022, at 4 pm (Brasília time)
Referee: Antonio Mateu (ESP)
Assistants: Pau Cebrian and Roberto Diaz (ESP)
VAR: Juan Martines (ESP)
Public: 42,127 fans
Goal: Pulisic (USA), 38 minutes into the first half
Yellow cards: Adams (USA), Hosseini (IRA), Kanaani (IRA) and Jalali (IRA)
Will: Beiranvand; Mohammadi (Al Karimi), Pouraliganji, Hosseini and Rezaeian; Haji Safi (Jalali), Ezatolahi and Noorollahi (Torabi); Taremi, Gholizadeh (Ansarifard) and Azmoun (Ghoddos). Coach: Carlos Queiroz
USA: Turner; Dest (Moore), Robinson, Ream and Carter-Vickers; Adams, Musah and McKennie (Perry-Acosta); Pulisic (Aaronson), Weah (Zimmerman) and Sargent (Wright). Coach: Gregg Berhalter
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