A goal from Christian Pulisic gave the United States a 1-0 win over Iran on Tuesday to see them qualify for the last 16 of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Iran, who have never reached the World Cup knockout stage in their previous five attempts, needed at least a draw to secure four points for their progress. Pressed by the U.S. at the start, Iran created few chances but managed to keep a solid formation.
Alireza Beiranvand, the Iranian goalkeeper who had been injured in the opening match against England, made his comeback to save Christian Pulisic’s short-range header in the box in the 11th minute.
In the 33rd minute, Timothy Weah missed a chance when he unleashed a right-footed shot wide of the target.
The goal came in the 3g8th minute when Chelsea winger Pulisic bundled the ball home from close range after Sergino Dest’s cross from the right, but appeared to injure himself in doing so.
Having had brief treatment on his thigh, Pulisic returned to the pitch to applause from stands. Minutes later, Iran’s Milad Mohammadi was substituted by Ali Karimi due to injury in first-half injury time.
However, Pulisic himself was substituted and sent to hospital during the half-time break.
Weah almost increased the advantage for the U.S. late in the first half, only to be denied by VAR for offside.
Iran strengthened their attack as Saman Ghoddos nodded a deflected right-wing cross at the back post but could not steer it on target in the 52nd minute.
Despite being on the brink of qualification, the U.S. constantly pressed but gave counter-attacking space for their opponents in the remaining minutes. Ghoddos again almost found an equaliser in the 65th minute from the center of the penalty area, but failed to score.
In the final minutes, the U.S. dropped deeper to better defend Iran’s attacks. A one-goal victory assures them of a slot in the last 16, while Iran once again miss out.
Insisting his team played better than their opponents, Iran manager Carlos Queiroz told the post-match press conference that Iran deserved at least a draw.
“The U.S. started the game much better than us. They deserved to score,” said Queiroz. “But second half was the opposite, we came back stronger.”
“But unfortunately, football always punishes the team that doesn’t score,” he said.
“A draw would have been a fair result. But in football, fair doesn’t exist,” he added.
U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter said his side’s win was justified. “We deserve to be in the position we’re in. And we want to keep going. We don’t want to be going home next Wednesday,” he said.
Asked how far the U.S. could go in Qatar, Berhalter replied: “Coming into the tournament we had two goals; the first was to advance through the group stage. And from here anything can happen. All we need to do is play one game at a time.”
As Group B runners-up, the U.S. team will face Group A winners the Netherlands in the round of 16 at Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday.- Advertisement -