U.S.A prevails and advances to the knockout stage after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Iran


Photo courtesy of Instagram @USMNT

US goalkeeper Matt Turner celebrates the victory over Iran on Nov. 29

Tuesday’s battle between the United States and Iran was undeniably the most significant match of the tournament in Group B. A win for the USMNT would result in a secured spot in the knockout stage, while either a win or draw for Iran would reward them with their spot in the next round. The 90-plus minutes of thrilling soccer (not football) was filled with saves, slide tackles and stolen goals. However, the United States triumphed as Christian Pulisic buried the only goal of the game. 

Holding England scoreless and only allowing a penalty in their game versus Wales, the U.S. defense has been their strong suit leading into this match. However, this team understood that in order to continue their World Cup journey they needed to score, and in the 38th minute, Pulisic did exactly that. A perfectly placed header from Sergiño Dest found Pulisic’s right foot across the box where he buried the shot in the bottom left corner of the net. Upon his finish, Pulisic collided with the goalkeeper resulting in him exiting the game for the second half due to an abdominal injury. Fortunately for the USMNT, Pulisic is expected to return for their next match Saturday against the Netherlands.

As the first half was coming to an end, the U.S. continued their attack as midfielder, Weston McKennie, placed an excellent through ball that allowed the young winger, Timothy Weah, to have a one-touch finish. However, this goal was called back for offsides, resulting in a 1-0 lead heading into half. 

Throughout the course of the second half, the Iranian squad fired back with a relentless attack. Iran had several quality scoring chances with an unsuccessful header in the 52nd minute from Saman Ghoddos as well as a missed shot from Saeid Ezatolahi’s right outside the box in the 70th minute. While these attempts left the U.S. defense on their toes, it was not until the final 10 minutes of added time that the Iranian attack truly had American fans holding their breath. The two final chances were a missed header from Morteza Pouraliganji off a free kick followed by a left foot finish from Mehdi Taremi that trickled through the legs of goalkeeper Matt Turner, but was quickly booted away by defender Walker Zimmerman.

As the final whistle blew, the United States players dropped to their knees in joy, knowing the magnitude of their accomplishment. While the advancement to the knockout stage is an honorable achievement in its own, there was a deeper level of significance within this match. In response to the recent uprisings in Iran, the U.S. Soccer Federation altered the official Iranian flag on social media in support of the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights. The USSF’s actions were met with Iran’s government calling for the U.S. to be suspended from the world cup as well as numerous Iranian citizens burning the U.S. flag. 

As the USMNT continues to fight for equality and human rights, this victory over Iran might reach further than the soccer pitch.