Iran 0 USA 1
Pulisic's winner sends youthful USA through to date with Netherlands
By Jeremy Wilson
The circling helicopter, sniffer dogs and large mirrors that were being shone beneath every car that entered the Al Thumama Stadium all instantly suggested that this was the most politically sensitive World Cup match since, well, the other time that Iran and the USA faced off.
The 1998 ‘Mother of all Games’ ended in a famous 2-1 victory for Iran which still “burns” the USA manager Gregg Berhalter and it can be safely assumed that 90 minutes here in Doha healed more scars than the entire past 24 years.
Berhalter thought that Iran had eliminated the USA in 1998 because they wanted it more and, while it would be impossible to question the spirit here of either side, a gulf in quality was evident during the first-half when Christian Pulisic finished a sweeping move to score the game’s only goal.
USA’s exciting young team deserve their place in the knockout phase but it was still impossible not to feel sympathy for the Iranian players.
Few can understand what they have been through over this past month and, completely crestfallen, some sank to the turf in tears when the final whistle was blown. It prompted an uplifting final image from this supposedly most fractious of fixtures as American players curtailed their celebrations to offer their personal commiserations.
“Throughout my career, I have never seen players who gave so much and received so little in return – I am extraordinarily proud of their dedication, wearing their jerseys for the country,” said Carlos Queiroz, the Iran manager.
The build-up had been unlike any other at this World Cup.
Although Queiroz passionately argued that there should be less politics and more focus on delivering “joy” to the watching public, a pre-match reference to school shootings had been a pointed way to highlight that every country has its problems.
The real catalyst for tensions, however, had been the decision by US Soccer to display the Iranian flag on social media without the emblem of the Islamic Republic. Iran were furious. A formal complaint went into Fifa and, while Berhalter apologised, the damage was done.
Iran’s fans again turned out in their thousands, including some women outside the stadium displaying the ‘Women, Life, Freedom’ message following the death of the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody in Iran.
Fifa do not allow political statements to be displayed inside stadiums and, while world football’s governing body have no issue with this message, Qatari stadium security have at times taken a different view.
There was no obvious sight of the message inside the stadium among a vociferous Iran fanbase.
The Iran players had stayed silent during the national anthem before their defeat against England.
They sang before beating Wales – amid some booing and jeering from their own fans – and they again sang here. Quoting a ‘security source’, the American cable news network CNN had claimed before the game that the players had been threatened with repercussions if they again kept quiet or took part in any political protest.
Queiroz was furious with the story – later saying that “in the space of two hours some stupidity becomes a truth” – and said his players had “little by little started smiling again” during the World Cup.
“They understand for whom they are playing, they understand their mission – they were able to bring prestige to the jersey of their country,” he said.
The noise that echoed out all around the stadium following the national anthems reflected an atmosphere that was the most intense of the tournament but never angry or nasty. Fans of both nations could be seen mixing happily in just about every stand.
The pre-match equation for the USA was simple: Win and they were through. Lose or draw and they were out.
It made approaching the task tricky and, while very much on the front-foot via midfielders Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah and Weston McKennie, they also retained a defensive structure that could stifle Iran’s occasional counter-attacks.
The pressure gradually mounted and the USA took a deserved 38th minute lead when McKennie’s cross-field pass found Sergino Dest and he headed precisely back across goal for Pulisic to finish.
Pulisic collided heavily with Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand in the process and, despite struggling on for a further seven minutes, felt dizzy and was replaced at the interval by Brenden Aaronson. The Chelsea midfielder was taken to hospital as a precaution but could later congratulate his team-mates via a Facetime call.
Iran still needed only one goal for the draw to secure a place in the World Cup knockout phase for the first time in their history and they did provide a much greater second-half threat.
Saeid Ezatolahi shot over and, in stoppage time, Morteza Pouraliganji directed a glancing near-post header into the side-netting. Mehdi Taremi then went down in the penalty area under a challenge from Cameron Carter-Vickers but the Var correctly turned down all appeals.
Queiroz argued that a draw would have been deserved but, while his players had indeed done him proud, the wider truth was that the USA, with England, were the group’s two most consistent teams.
They are the youngest team in the competition and will now pose a real threat to Louis van Gaal’s Dutch side. “We are not going in thinking it’s an honour – we deserve to be in the position we are and we want to go on,” said Berhalter.
Iran (4-3-3): Beyranvand 7; Rezaeian 6, Hosseini 7, Pouraliganji 6, Mohammadi 6 (Karimi, 45+3); Noorollahi 6 (Torabi, 71), Ezatolahi 6, Hajisafi 6 (Jalali, 72); Gholizadeh 6 (Ansarifard, 78), Azmoun 5 (Ghoddos, 45), Taremi 7.
Booked: Hosseini, Jalali.
Substitutes not used: Moharrami, Khalilzadeh, Amiri, Niazmand, Kanani, Cheshmi, Abedzadeh, Hosseini.
USA (4-3-3): Turner 6; Dest 7 (Moore, 82), Carter-Vickers 7, Ream 6, Robinson 6; Musah 7, Adams 7, McKennie 8 (Acosta, 65); Weah 7 (Zimmerman, 82), Sargent 6 (Wright, 77), Pulisic 7 (Aaronson, 45).
Goal: Pulisic (38).
Substitutes not used: Reyna, Ferreira, Horvath, De la Torre, Long, Morris, Roldán, Yedlin, Johnson, Scally.
Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz (Spain).
Iran 0 USA 1: As it happened
USA manager Gregg Berhalter reacts
Speaking to the BBC
In the first half we showed what we can do, soccer wise. We had a really good first half. Second half we showed what we could do determination wise. The guys grinded, gave every single ounce and we are undefeated going into the next round.
Update on Christian Pulisic
No update on his status. But it's a wonderful thing when one of your best players is also one of the most hard working. He's certainly that. I can't say enough positive things about Christian.
"With this new injury time, counting every second it's stressful. I think I have less hair on my head now! But we'll take it and move on and go battle against Holland.
You can rate the players right here
USA fans, what are you giving Christian Pulisic? Nine?
FT: USA 1 Iran 0
That was some brilliant defending from Zimmerman and Carter-Vickers keeps the Iran long balls away.
The final whistle goes and the USA are deservedly through to the last 16, where they will face the Netherlands on Saturday.
In the other Group B clash, England won 3-0 against Wales finishing the group as winner, where they will face Senegal.
90+8: USA 1 Iran 0
Iran played the long ball however the ball ends up past Matt Turner but it is comfortably cleared. Taremi was on the floor there and Iran are calling for a penalty- Var says no.
It just hasn't happened for the Asian nation
90+6: USA 1 Iran 0
Pouraliganji throws himself at the free-kick and is trying to direct his header to the near post. However, he has his head in his hands.
90+4: USA 1 Iran 0
This must feel like an eternity for USA fans and not enough time for Carlos Queiroz's side. Iran win a free-kick which is headed just wide by Torabi. That certainly had Matt Turner worried.
90 min: USA 1 Iran 0
There are nine minutes of the added time at the Al Thumama Stadium, will be there more late drama here?
There has just been one shot on target for Iran today and Matt Turner has seen busier days on the bench at Arsenal. However, who could forget they did score twice in injury time against Wales.
88 min: USA 1 Iran 0
There was a very brief Var check for a possible handball after Turner comes out to claim a cross that seemed to be deflected off his own USA defender.
Sorry Iranian fans, that was never a penalty.
85 min: USA 1 Iran 0
The cameras have just turned to the sideline and Weston McKennie is clearly channneling his inner coach some giving instructions from the USA's bench.
Maybe he is preparing for his next career move?
81 min: USA 1 Iran 0
Gregg Berhalter shores up the USA's backline, as Dest and Weah are both substituted and defenders Zimmerman and Moore are on. USA are just under 10 minutes away from the round of 16.
78 min: USA 1 Iran 0
Hosseini goes into the book, as the centre-back tackles Aaronson and receives Iran's first yellow for the game. Both sides have again made changes too- Wright is on for Sargent and Gholizadeh is replaced by Ansarifard for Iran.
75 min: USA 1 Iran 0
25 minutes to go for Iran to find an equaliser and there are changes for Carlos Querioz's side with Torabi in for Nuoroallahi and Borani for Hajsafi.
71 min: USA 1 Iran 0
The USA have won a free-kick from a decent position but Musah shoots way over the crossbar. However, it is encouraging to see the USA not sitting on their slim lead, they are are attacking with real urgency to seek their second.
68 min: USA 1 Iran 0
Taremi goes close for Iran as Amiri squares the ball across the goal from the right flank but his shot goes pas Ghoddos but it does reach Taremi who is able to open his body but his shot flies wide of the goal.
Just looking at the reply, it wasn't the easiest of changes but he well to get control the ball and get his shot off. Iran are growing in this game.
65 min: USA 1 Iran 0
The impact of Ghoddos for Iran has been significant for his side. He has been excellent and allowed Iran to attack with much more energy. He is just missing his final touch to get that equalizer that Iran so desperately need.
61 min: USA 1 Iran 0
Weston McKennie has been sublime for the USA in midfield. His distribution has been immense and so often he is left to clean up the loose ball. Along with Dest, he has been the USA's best player.
58 min: USA 1 Iran 0
The Iranian fans are really the 12th man the Al Thumama Stadium. They are in full voice, attempting to drive their team on. However, their side need to show more urgency and threat at this moment.
55 min: USA 1 Iran 0
That is another darting run from Taremi from the left channel, he took on one too many defenders and eventually ran the ball out.
At times, he is having to force the issue single-handedly, but there has been space down the wings for Iran to exploit.
52 min: USA 1 Iran 0
Finally, we are seeing some real intent from Iran which is about time. Taremi seems to have moved to a more central position with Ghoddos looking lively since coming on.
It's only taken 50 minutes for Iran to have their first shot of the game through Ghoddos.
50 min: USA 1 Iran 0
News to bring you from the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium as Marcus Rashford has given England a 1-0 lead against Wales.
And now Phil Foden has made it 2-0- you can follow all the action right here.
That is good news for Iran fans, who just need to draw against the USA, as long as Wales don't win. But Iran need to actually go for it before worrying about that
48 min: USA 1 Iran 0
Sargent makes a brilliant run behind but his shot is tame and is straight at the Iranian keeper. The game has picked up right where it was left off with USA in the ascendancy.
45 min: USA 1 Iran 0
We are back underway at the Al Thumama Stadium. At half-time the Iranian fans looked exasperated with their sides performance. Still in disbelief that the USA took the lead.
It is half-time changes for both sides as goal-scorer Christian Pulisic hasn't returned for the second half and is replaced by Brendon Aaronson. For Iran, Mohammdi and Azmoun are off with Karimi and Ghoddos are on their place.
Tyleer Adams not having a bad game...
In the other Group B clash
England and Wales are goalless at half time, get Jamie Carragher's midway thoughts right here.
HT: USA 1 Iran 0
From Jeremy Wilson at the Al Thumama Stadium
USA needed to win and they have dominated the game so far, living up to Carlos Queiroz's pre-match claim that the US had been the best of the four teams in Group B throughout the opening two matches.
The only slight frustration might be the failure to add a second. Iran have barely threatened but, as things stand, need only a goal - and a draw - to progress. It will make for a hugely nervous finale if the USA cannot extend their deserved lead.
45+4: USA 1 Iran 0
Disallowed goal for the USA, as Weah scores a neat finish but goes in off the post but he's adjudged to be offside.
Iran need to seriously wake up here, with the USA smelling blood.
45+1: USA 1 Iran 0
Five minutes have been added at Al Thumama Stadium and Iran did not look bright. Throughout the first half, they do not look like a particularly threatening team going forward.
They need to come out after the break with a lot more urgency, if they want to progress into the knockout stages.
44 min: USA 1 Iran 0
That is a half-chance for Sargent who took down an excellent diagonal pass well and got a shot on from an incredibly tight angle. It went pass the far post but it just needed an extra touch to get the second for the USA.
41 min: USA 1 Iran 0
It is all change in Group B
As things stand, USA will go through in second place if things remain as they are, with Iran going home.
Pulsic is still receiving treatment and he looks visibly winded on the touchline as the game continues.
38 min: USA 1 Iran 0
USA find the breakthrough courtesy of Pulisic, however he appears to have been injured in the process.
It was a brilliant worked from McKennie in midfield, which he lofts to Dest who run in behind the Iranian defence and heads the ball into a dangerous area. Pulisic scrambled it in for the USA, but he ran straight into the goalkeeper and took a knee in the stomach.
36 min: USA 0 Iran 0
It was been a cagey half and as much as Iran have been way too negative, the USA are pressing them mercilessly.
30 min: USA 0 Iran 0
You sense, that Iran's set up means that attacking chances are few and far between, but when the ball does break to Iran, they cannot progress into their own final third or further up the pitch. They loose touches and missed passes are halting them from gaining any momentum in this match.
USA have dominated possession but have been too predictable in their chance creation.
27 min: USA 0 Iran 0
Best opportunity of the game so far, as Sargent is onsdie and see his shot deflected into the path of Weah, who clearly didn't know how much time he had, went for the header from some distance and didn't end up threatening Beiranvand's goal.
It's a chance that really went begging for the USA.
23 min: USA 0 Iran 0
Weah find as a gap down the right, as Deah and McKennie are overloading down that channel. Weah is in behind the Iranian defence and attempts to play a ball into the a dangerous area before the ball is cleared.
Moments later, it is Weah down that inside right channel, causing Iran all sorts of problems. It is a give and go with Sargent, before playing the ball out. He is looking really dangerous.
21 min: USA 0 Iran 0
The USA are putting plenty of crosses into the box but they aren't producing the results with no American players yet to met any of them.
Pulisic tries to force the issue to break down and Iranian defence but he loses the ball.
17 min: USA 0 Iran 0
The USA have giving the ball away far too easily in dangerous areas but Iran haven't been able to capitalize on the opportunity. You sense, Iran are trying to be a little too clever in their build-up play with tight combinations and cute passes. However, the USA are able to read their play and stop them.
Knock yourselves out and mark the players out of 10.
14 min: USA 0 Iran 0
It seems Iran's tactics are to try a long ball over the top of the USA defence, but it's too long for their forward and Turner is able to easily collect.
11 min: USA 0 Iran 0
There is a cross inside the Iran box, which Robinson clears well out to Musah. He tries to control the ball with his knee before attempting to volley but his effort flies over the crossbar.
8 min: USA 0 IRAN 0
The USA are enjoying a really decent spell of possession as Iran seem happy to sit back and attack on the counter.
6 min: USA 0 Iran 0
It is decent link-up play between Taremi and Azmoun, as now Iran are looking to threaten. However, both their crosses are from out wide and off-target on this occasion.
However, a long throw eventually finds the hands of the USA keeper.
4 min: USA 0 Iran 0
It is a bright start for the men in blue shirts. They are playing with real intent in these opening exchanges and testing this Iranian defence.
The crowd is deafening at the Al Thumama Stadium.
2 min: USA 0 Iran 0
Christian Pulisic is looking good early doors but Hosseini is able to just get across to block him. What a direct start from this USA team.
Here we go and the final Group B match is underway!
The teams are out
And it's national anthem time.
Huge noise from the sizable USA contingent.
Is football coming home?
England will only need a draw to go through to the next round. Meanwhile, Wales will need a big win to qualify for the round of 16
Follow all the action through our live right here.
Huge match for USA's development
Firstly, many thanks to Andrew Quinn for holding the fort while I was wrapping up Senegal vs Ecuador.
The USA clearly feel they are on the rise as a team and this is a key test in their quality and composure. The fact that Gregg Berhalter hasn't gone unchanged, shows how impressive the USA were against England.
From our man on the ground
Jeremy Wilson at Al Thumama Stadium
Extraordinary reception when the Iranian players made their way out onto the pitch for the warm-up. The Iran fans seem to be out-numbering the US fans quite considerably and there is a real sense that this is the biggest match in their team's history. Iran have never won two games at a World Cup or progressed past the group phase.
The warm-ups are in full swing
From Jeremy Wilson at Al Thumama Stadium
Plenty of additional security checks ahead of the most politically charged match of the tournament: Iran v the USA. Mirrors being used to check beneath vehicles entering the stadium compound, sniffer dogs out in force and a helicopter has been constantly circling the stadium for the past hour.
Predict the score
Who's banking the points tonight?
From our man on the ground earlier on
From Jeremy Wilson at Al Thumama Stadium
Still 80 minutes until kick-off at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha but noticeable to see plenty of additional security checks ahead of the most politically charged match of the tournament: Iran v the USA.
Mirrors being used to check beneath vehicles entering the stadium compound, sniffer dogs out in force and a helicopter has been constantly circling the stadium for the past 20 minutes.
USA fan with rainbow armband seemingly evicted from stadium
A USA fan has seemingly been evicted from the stadium after wearing a rainbow armband.
The man, who was wearing a shirt with "99 Problems" on the back, in reference to a Jay Z song, was pictured being escorted out of the stadium by security.
They're going to start a fight
Carter-Vickers and Sargent in for USA
Celtic's Cameron Carter-Vickers, who was born in Southend and was raised in Essex, comes in for Walker Zimmermann at centre-back.
Norwich City's Josh Sargent, who started the match against Wales but was dropped against England, returns in attack.
Fulham duo Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream, Chelsea's Christian Pulisic Leeds' Tyler Adams all make the starting XI.
Beiranvand returns for Iran
Goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, who was subbed off in Iran's opener after a head injury, returns to the starting line-up after missing the match against Wales.
Beiranvand initially continued playing after a clash of heads against England, but was taken off soon after.
Rouzbeh Cheshmi, who scored the first goal against Wales on Friday, is on the bench again. Ramin Rezaeian, who finished the game off with a sumptuous chip, starts again at right-back.
Ali Gholizadeh, Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi all start in attack after impressive performances against Wales.
The teams are out
Iran: Alireza Beiranvand, Ehsan Hajsafi, Milad Mohammadi, Saeid Ezatolahi, Morteza Pouraliganji, Mehdi Taremi, Ali Gholizadeh, Majid Hosseini, Sardar Azmoun, Ahmad Nourollahi, Ramin Rezaeian
United States: Matt Turner, Sergino Dest, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tyler Adams, Antonee Robinson, Yunus Musah, Weston McKennie, Christian Pulisic, Tim Ream, Tim Weah, Josh Sargent
A battle for a place in the second round
Iran and the USA go head-to-head in a bid to reach the knockout stage of the World Cup. The USA need a win to go through, while Iran will advance with a draw unless Wales beat England.
The two sides met in the 1998 World Cup group stage, with Iran triumphing 2-1 on that occasion.
The build-up to this match has been controversial, as Gregg Berhalter, the United States coach, and captain Tyler Adams issued a double apology to Iran during an extraordinary press conference in which he was tackled by journalists on racism in the US, his country’s immigration policy, inflation and the US military fleet in the Persian Gulf.
An already charged political backdrop was ignited on Sunday after the US Football Federation posted a picture of the Iranian flag without the symbol of Allah, sparking a formal complaint from the Iran Football Federation and a demand from some media outlets that USA are thrown out of the tournament.
Iran started the tournament poorly, as they were royally trounced 6-2 by England, with Porto striker Mehdi Taremi grabbing both Iranian goals.
They bounced back to produce a very strong performance against Wales, which has given them a chance of progression to the knockout stage. They left it late in their 2-0 win over Rob Page's men, with goals in added time from Rouzbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Razaeian. Iran were also helped by the sending off of Wales keeper for a dangerous challenge in the 86th minute, but probably deserved their win after hitting the woodwork twice earlier in the game.
The USA have been a mixed bag so far. Tipped as 'ones to watch' they were rather underwhelming in their 1-1 draw with Wales in their first match. They took the lead through Timothy Weah in the first half, but Wales equalised late in with a Gareth Bale penalty.
They showed a grittier side in their 0-0 draw with England, where they wouldn't have been undeserving of a win. The Americans tested the England backline with plenty of crosses, but many of them were met by a aerially dominant Harry Maguire.