DOHA ( Associated Press) – Christian Pulisic scored the goal that set up the United States in the round of 16 at the World Cup in Qatar, taking a fierce shot from the opponent’s goalkeeper.
An American striker’s goal in the 38th minute made the difference in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Iran, which was accused of political overtones.
Back at the World Cup after missing the 2018 edition, the United States began the tournament with draws against Wales and England and had no choice but to beat the Iranians to qualify for the knockout stage. They did so to finish second in Group B with five points, two behind England, and next face the Netherlands on Saturday.
Iran was third in the key and still could not get through the first stage of the World Cup in six appearances.
Attacker Tim Weah said, “I always say we have to fight the world.” “No one believes that the United States can play soccer well.”
The United States were more incisive and managed to open the net near half-time with a right-front switch from Weston McKennie to Serginho Dest, who put the ball into the heart of the box, where Pulisic arrived to push it deep.
Pulisic was unable to continue due to a strong blow he received after colliding with goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.
It was a high-voltage game due to strained relations between the United States and the government of the Islamic Republic. Iran also recalled defeating the Americans in France in 1998, which resulted in their elimination.
Pre-match protocols were common, in contrast to 1998, when Iranians handed white flowers to their rivals and the teams posed together for a photo.
The United States’ pressure paid off when Weston McKennie sent his pass from the center circle to Dest. Pulisic charged through the center of the box, going between Ramin Rezaeian and Majid Hosseinand. Moving his body forward, Pulisic pushed the ball in with his right foot to score his 22nd goal for the national team and his first at the World Cup.
Pulisic lay on the grass for three minutes during first aid. He returned to the game, but was substituted at the start of the second half.
“We should thank him for dumping his body,” McKechnie said. “In the end we suffered, but we did it and we are happy to be in the race.”
With England on their way to a 3–0 victory over Wales, Iran understood they would have to draw and get their act together to qualify. It wasn’t until the 52nd that the team, led by Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz, had their first shot at goal defended by Matt Turner, with a header from Saman Ghodos that went over the crossbar.
Saeed Ezatolahi also sent him within range of 70 with a shot that he sent high. The United States fought back in nine minutes of extra time, first with Morteza Pourliganji’s sliced header and Walter Zimmermann clearing a loose ball into an empty net in time after Mehdi Taremi’s shot.
US coach Greg Berhalter said, “In the first half we showed what we are capable of in terms of quality of football.” “In the second half we showed what we can do in terms of determination. We go into the second round undefeated”.