USMNT Hangs on Against Iran to Advance to Knockout Stage in Qatar

On Tuesday, at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, needing a win to advance, the USMNT (United States Men’s National Team) just barely edged out Iran in their final match of the group stage, claiming a 1-0 victory. Christian Pulisic put his body on the line to secure what would end up being the game winner for the U.S. in the 38th minute. The U.S. will advance to the knockout stage with their 5 points consisting of a draw against both Wales and England (1pt each) and a win over Iran (3pts).

The match began with the U.S. coming out on the attack, getting 3 shots on goal by the 27th minute. After knocking on the door for a while, Weston McKennie floated a ball to Sergiño Dest who was making a run behind the defense. Dest connected and headed the ball right towards the 6-yard box where star-player Christian Pulisic was waiting to volley it in after one bounce past Iranian keeper Alireza Beiranvand. When it hit the back of the net, the U.S. took the driver’s seat knowing all they had to do was keep the score right where it was. During the goal, Pulisic landed on the Iranian goal keeper, injuring the man known as the face of the United States team after his first career goal in world cup play. Brendan Aaronson, the 22-year-old came on to replace Pulisic. If the injury to Pulisic ends up being major, it could really cost the team.

The U.S. looked to score another right before half-time in the 51st minute when McKennie sent a through-ball between two Iranian defenders to Tim Weah who one-touched the ball past Beiranvand. Right after the ball went in, the assistant referee put his flag up, signaling offside, and the goal was disallowed. Weah was just barely offside, but replay showed the call was correct.

Iran tried to find an equalizer in the 64th minute. Saman Ghoddos got the ball from a pass across the box, and one-timed it around the U.S. defender, but the ball didn’t curve enough, and ended up wide right. Five minutes later, Saeid Ezatolahi ripped a shot from behind the box, but it too, went high and wide.

The 90th minute came, and referee Antonio Mateu of Spain added on 9 minutes. Panic began to set in for the Iranian squad, a loss would send them packing. They had a great opportunity in the 92nd minute off of a free-kick from the left side, but it was headed wide left for a U.S. goal-kick.

Iran’s best shot of the match came all the way in the 97th minute. The ball was headed into the box, and an Iranian player slid in to get his foot on the ball. He tapped it right through U.S. goalie Matt Turner’s legs, but it didn’t have enough power on it to roll passed the goal line, and it was cleared away by U.S. defender Walker Zimmerman. That would be Iran’s last attempt before the referee blew his whistle three times. Many players fell to the ground for both sides, due to the extreme heat in Qatar, the exhaustion of the game, and pure emotion.

Ultimately, the USMNT escaped with victory after 99 stressful minutes. After the match, USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter, who won his first World Cup match with the victory, jokingly claimed that “I have less hair on my head now.” Overall, he was proud of the team, saying, “In the first-half we showed what we could do soccer-wise…and in the second-half, determination wise.”  The U.S. squad will now rest up and prepare to face the Netherlands led by Virgil van Dijk on Saturday in their first game of the knockout round. They know that this will be a tough task, but they are going into it undefeated in 3 games and everyone knows that they will keep the same grit and determination with them as long as their run in Qatar will last.