Friday’s game against England was one the fans, journalists, and network executives circled on their calendars.

The two countries shared so much history, and it was the day after Thanksgiving. Consequently, it was bound to dominate the headlines. Unfortunately, once the first whistle blew, neither side produced much to admire. A scoreless draw saw England go to four points and stay on top of the group. Meanwhile, the United States is stuck at two points.

While the English press went into meltdown mode at their third failed attempt to beat the US in a World Cup, the reaction from the Americans was the polar opposite. American media celebrated a result that left the side in third place like a massive win. This draw, combined with Iran’s 2-0 win over Wales, leaves everything on the table in Group B.

All four teams can advance. Also, all four teams can miss out. It sets up a huge day on Tuesday as the USMNT takes on Iran in a win-and-in scenario.

US again left wanting more

The result of Friday’s game left the US on the outside looking in. Yet, it should be noted that they were the better team for much of the game. Berhalter’s side defended well and frustrated an England attack that ran riot over Iran in their opener, scoring six goals. Christian Pulisic had the best chance of the whole game with his shot off the crossbar in the first half. At the end of the day, neither side found the back of the net.

Goal scoring is a huge problem for the United States under Gregg Berhalter. His side is scoreless in seven of 14 games in 2022. Another scoreless showing against Iran is simply not an option. Anything other than a win over Iran sends the United States home from Qatar early.

A preview of Iran for the USA

Iran’s form coming into this World Cup was not bad at all. A successful qualifying campaign yielded 25 points out of a possible 30. The following four friendlies before the World Cup led to wins over Uruguay and Nicaragua, a draw against Senegal and defeat to Algeria.

Iran caused a stir in firing Dragan Skocic, the manager who qualified the side, just two months before the tournament. In his place, Carlos Queiroz returned. Queiroz managed Iran at the World Cup in both 2014 and 2018.

The players themselves caused a stir by refusing to sing the national anthem in the first game. This was solidarity with the Mahsa Amini protests taking place in Tehran.

Their roster for the World Cup is one of the more experienced rosters out there. Only three of the 26 players have single-digit caps. The man to watch for the Iranians is Mehdi Taremi. The Porto forward has 30 goals in 62 appearances at international level. Moreover, he has half of Iran’s four goals at this World Cup.

US Soccer causing extra political tensions

In a match already tinged with so much geopolitical tension, it also bears discussing that US Soccer unnecessarily made things much more difficult for the USMNT. In doing so, it gave the Iranians the proverbial “bulletin board material.” The United States removed the symbol from the center of the Iranian flag without American players or coaches or even the American government knowing of the decision. US Soccer claims this was a statement about their support for women’s rights. However, it touched off such a firestorm that they deleted all the graphics in question. If anything, the USMNT’s social accounts tried to proceed as if nothing happened as they preview the final USA match in the group stage against Iran. 

That did little to quell Iranian anger. The result was a series of tense press conferences. The Iranian media accused US Soccer media manager Michael Kammarman of not calling on them. Then, on Monday, Iranian journalists questioned Gregg Berhalter over why he did not ask the US government to order the US Navy to remove ships from the waters around Iran.

This does not relate to the actual game. However, that is the situation US Soccer put itself in with poor decision making.

Notes for the game

In a preview for the USA game against Iran, it is notable to mention that the USA has never defeated Iran. In two meetings, the United States lost once and drew once. That draw was in a friendly in 2000 at the Rose Bowl. Much more significantly, that loss was at the 1998 World Cup in France.

Gregg Berhalter will have to find a way to pick up a massive result to get the side’s first win against Iran. However, the American had his struggles outside the United States. Berhalter’s record in games played outside the country is just five wins, six losses and eight draws, including the England tie.

The United States must win to advance. The result in the other game, England vs Wales, has no importance for the United States. Iran is not necessarily secured with a draw. If Wales wins and Iran draws with the United States, both England and Wales advance to the knockout stage.

Group B Standings
  1. England (4pts, +4 GD)
  2. Iran (3pts, -2 GD)
  3. USA (2pts, 0 GD)
  4. Wales (1pts, -2 GD)
When, Where to watch on TV
  • Tuesday, November 29, 2022
  • Al Thumama Stadium
  • Doha, Qatar
  • 2pm ET
  • FOX, Telemundo

PHOTO: IMAGO / Action Plus