The knockout stages of the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) World Cup have arrived — and a win will suffice when they face Iran in a winner-takes-all game on Tuesday.
Whichever team wins will advance to the round of 16 in Qatar in 2022, while for the USMNT even a draw would see them eliminated.
It will be a politically tense contest as the two countries have not had formal diplomatic relations since April 1980, when Iran took over the US embassy in November 1979 following Iran’s Islamic Revolution.
Ahead of the game, Iranian state media called for the United States to be kicked out of the 2022 World Cup after the U.S. Soccer Association changed the Iranian flag on its social media accounts in support of Iranian protesters.
US Soccer told CNN it wanted to replace the official flag within 24 hours to show “support for Iranian women’s struggle for basic human rights,” but always planned to return to the original flag.
USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter sidestepped the political undercurrents, saying his focus was entirely on football.
“The thing about football is you meet many different people from all over the world and you are united by a shared love of the game,” Berhalter told reporters after the England game.
“I think the matchup is competitive because both teams want to get to the next round, not because of politics.
“We’re footballers, we’re going to play, they’re going to play, that’s all.”
The USMNT has drawn both of its games so far – 1-1 against Wales, who fell behind when they fell behind, and 0-0 against a superstar England team.
Against England, the USMNT’s young “golden generation” faced their biggest test yet and looked the more threatening of the two teams for much of the game before putting up a determined resistance Late pressure from England.
Team USA had a lot of bright spots in that game.
It showed tactical flexibility by switching to a 4-4-2 formation and its defense was shut out by European opponents at the World Cup for the first time since 1950, with Tyler Adams, Yunus Moussa and Wes Don McKennie crushed their English opponents in midfield, while Christian Pulisic was exactly the creative playmaker his side needed him to be.
Although the USMNT is currently four places above Iran in the FIFA world rankings, it will remain wary of its opponents, who preserved their World Cup qualification hopes with a dramatic 2-0 win over Wales on Friday.
Iran scored twice in stoppage time after Wales keeper Wayne Hennessey was sent off – the first from a superb 98th-minute strike by Rouzbeh Cheshmi and the second. The ball came from Ramin Rezaeian’s penalty to substitute keeper Danny Ward.
The result derailed Iran’s opening 6-2 World Cup defeat of England and was a truer indication of the talent embedded in the squad as they seek to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time. time in its history.
“Now, we need to make sure that we are strong enough to go to the second round,” Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said after the match against Wales, according to Reuters.
“The US is also a good team, as we saw against Wales.
“Our preparations start with a good rest, refresh our minds, put all the excess and rubbish behind us and focus on our goals because all we want to do is give this gift to Iranian fans.”
Iran’s presence at the tournament was under the shadow of domestic unrest after widespread protests were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died after being detained by Iran’s morality police for allegedly failing to abide by the country’s conservative dress code. Iranian security forces have since responded violently to the protests.
The silence of Iranian players during the playing of the national anthem ahead of Monday’s opener against England was widely interpreted as a show of solidarity with protesters at home, while the players sang their national anthem in their second game against Wales, albeit in A soft way.
In the other Group B match, England will look to lock down an almost certain spot with Wales in the knockout stages.
If England beat Wales, the USMNT will advance in second place in their group, provided it beats Iran; and if England lose, the USMNT will finish first.
Finishing second would make it the most likely opponent for the Netherlands, while finishing first could attract Ecuador or Senegal.
Netherlands vs Qatar: 10 p.m. ET
Ecuador vs. Senegal: 10 p.m. ET
Wales vs England: 2 p.m. ET
Iran vs. USA: 2 p.m. ET
US: Fox Sports
UK: BBC or ITV
Germany: ARD, ZDF, Deutsche Telekom
Canada: Bell Media
South Africa: SABC