The United States shattered the Iranian dream of a historic first qualification for the round of 16 of a World Cup by dominating Team Melli (1-0) on Tuesday, securing their ticket to the next round after of a shock with a strong political impact, but disputed without particular animosity.
Nearly half a century after the confrontation at the World Cup-98 between the two sworn enemies (Iranian victory 2-1) without diplomatic relations since 1980, the US selection took its revenge on the Persians thanks to a goal from its star Christian Pulisic (38th) and climbs to the knockout stage for the first time since 2014.
Four years from a World Cup organized on their soil, with Canada and Mexico, the Americans thus confirm their constant progress. A sign of this rise in power, the formation of Gregg Berhalter had no residents of the MLS, the local championship, at kick-off, the eleven holders all playing in Europe.
An evolution to be confirmed from the 1/8 final against the Netherlands, even if it will be necessary to watch the physical state of Pulisic, released at half-time on injury and transported to the hospital “as a precaution” for “ dizziness” after a shock on the action of the goal with the Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, according to the American coach.
For the Iranians, who only needed a small point to pass, the disillusion is however total. The snatch success against Wales (2-0) had given hope of winning a first ticket for the 1/8 finals, but they missed their meeting, unable to take the measure of their opponents, much more solid, if not brilliant.
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Despite the extreme tension between the two countries and in Iran, the scene of unprecedented protests since the death on September 16 of the young Mahsa Amini, arrested by the morality police in Tehran for breaking the strict dress code of the Islamic Republic, the meeting took place in a peaceful atmosphere, even if there were no signs of fraternization between the players before kick-off, as in 1998.
The day before, the two teams had already tried to limit this meeting to its strictly sporting dimension.
With no emotional charge on the pitch or in the stands, unlike Team Melli’s first two outings, the game was generally dominated by the Americans, although they didn’t create any huge chances either apart from the goal of Pulisic.
The Chelsea striker (10th) and Timothy Weah (28th) thus saw their heads too soft easily captured by Beiranvand, back in the Iranian cage after the concussion suffered at the start of the first game largely lost against England (6 -2).
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Taremi and Azmoun disappointing
The Iranians never really managed to pack the match, their two main offensive assets not having had the expected success. Mehdi Taremi, who started alone in the back of the defence, wasted a great opportunity in the first half (20th) while Sardar Azmoun was rather transparent and very quickly gave up his place at the break to Saman Ghoddos, who proved much more dangerous (51st, 64th).
It was especially defender Morteza Pouraliganji who was closest to the feat on a diving header which grazed the American post in stoppage time (90th + 3).
« Unfortunately, in football, the team that does not score is punished, » said Portugal coach of Iran Carlos Queiroz. It’s simple, the team that scored in the first half deserves to win. In football, there is no justice, congratulations to the United States and good luck to them for the round of 16 of the World Cup.
His US counterpart Gregg Berhalter praised the « determination » of his people, but was especially worried about the fate of Pulisic.
“This new injury is stressful. I have even less hair on my head now…. But we will deal with it and prepare for the fight against the Netherlands,” he explained.