Iran’s stunning 2-0 win over Wales isn’t good news for the United States in Group B, but the Red, White, and Blue still has a chance at advancing to the World Cup knockout stage in Qatar, regardless of Friday’s outcome against England.
Following a disappointing 1-1 draw with Wales in the Group B opener on Monday, the US is now set for its second game of the World Cup against England at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.
If coach Gregg Berhalter’s team loses to England – one of the tournament favorites coming off a 6-2 win over Iran – the US can still advance by beating the Iranians in the Group B finale on Tuesday.
Interestingly, a draw against England won’t change that equation because the US would still have only two points, necessitating a win over Iran on Tuesday in order to advance.
Of course, a win over the Three Lions makes things a lot easier for the US, which could then advance with a win or a tie against Iran on Tuesday. And even if the US somehow loses to Iran after beating England – an unlikely series of events, to say the least – the Americans could still advance on goal differential if Wales were to tie or beat England on Tuesday.
Long story short: the US almost certainly needs to beat Iran on Tuesday to advance, regardless of Friday’s outcome against England.
Timothy Weah of United States stretches during the USA Training Session at Al Gharafa SC
United States coach Gregg Berhalter looks on during training on Thursday in Qatar
Iranian players celebrate a 2-0 win over Wales on Friday after losing 6-2 to England on Monday
Team USA’s game with England will be at 10pm local time in Qatar, but 2pm EST in the US
The bad news for the US collapsed in the second half of Monday’s draw to a Welsh team that did the same in the final moments against Iran.
Rouzbeh Cheshmi scored in the eighth minute of stoppage time to break a scoreless stalemate and Iran went on to defeat Wales 2-0 at the World Cup on Friday.
Cheshmi’s strike from outside the box was just beyond the diving reach of Wales backup goalkeeper Danny Ward, who was pressed into duty when starter Wayne Hennessey was sent off in the 86th minute.
Ramin Rezaeian added a second goal moments later and Iran wildly celebrated while some of the Welsh players dropped in disbelief to the field.
Ramin Rezaeian of IR Iran and Daniel James of Wales compete for the ball during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between Wales and IR Iran at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium
While it may not matter to a group of 20-somethings playing Iran on Tuesday, older American soccer fans remember the heartache of 1998, when the Iranians stunned Team USA in France.
Relations between the two countries had been hostile since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, which ousted the pro-American Shah and eventually led to a drawn-out hostage crisis that severely blighted President Jimmy Carter’s re-election bid the following year.
When the teams met in 1998, French riot police were on site at the stadium in Lyon, but ultimately weren’t needed. The teams did their best to reduce tensions by posing together in a group photo. Iran’s players even brought white roses for their opponents.
A spirited match that was low on malice saw Iran end up winning 2-1, its last victory in the World Cup before Friday. Neither team managed to progress beyond the group stage.
Brian McBride and David Regis of the USA and Karim Bagheri of Iran in action during the World Cup 1st round match between USA (1) and Iran (2) at the Parc Olympique on June 21, 1998
Iranian and US fans wave their national flag 21 June at the Gerland stadium in Lyon, central France, before the 1998 Soccer World Cup Group F first round second match between Iran and the United States
Nader Mohammadkhani, Mohammad Khakpour of Iran and Brian McBride of USA in action during the FIFA World Cup 1998 match between Iran and United States at Stade de Gerland on June 21, 1998 in Lyon, France
Relations between the countries have once again become strained after then-President Donald Trump announced in 2018 his intention to withdraw the US from the nuclear deal brokered with Iran.
Other political issues are already looming over Tuesday’s USA-Iran game.
Tensions ran high on Tuesday as fans supporting the Iranian government harassed those protesting against it and stadium security seized flags, T-shirts and other items expressing support for the protest movement that has gripped the Islamic Republic.
Some fans were stopped by stadium security from bringing in Persian pre-revolutionary flags to match against Wales at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium. Others carrying such flags had them ripped from their hands by pro-government Iran fans, who also shouted insults at fans wearing T-shirts with the slogan of the protest movement gripping the country, ‘Woman, Life, Freedom.’
Unlike in their first match against England, the Iran players sang along to their national anthem before the match as some fans in the stadium wept, whistled and booed.
The national team has come under close scrutiny for any statements or gestures about the nationwide protests that have wracked Iran for weeks.
Iran fans are blocked by security staffs as they celebrate their team’s 2-0 victory in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between Wales and IR Iran at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium
Shouting matches erupted in lines outside the stadium between fans screaming ‘Women, Life, Freedom’ and others shouting back ‘The Islamic Republic!’
Small mobs of men surrounded three different women giving interviews about the protests to foreign media outside the stadium, disrupting broadcasts as they angrily chanted, ‘The Islamic Republic of Iran!’ Many female fans appeared shaken as Iranian government supporters shouted at them in Farsi and filmed them close-up on their phones.
The turmoil has overshadowed the start of Iran’s World Cup campaign. The opening match against England on Monday was the scene of protests as anti-government fans waved signs and chanted in the stands. Before that match, which Iran lost 6-2, its players remained silent as their national anthem played and didn’t celebrate their two goals. On Friday they sang along to the anthem and celebrated wildly when they scored in the 2-0 win against Wales.
Ayeh Shams from the United States, who was at the game against Wales with her brother, said security guards confiscated her flag because it had the word ‘women’ on it.
‘We’re first generation American. Our parents were born in Iran. We’re just here to enjoy the games and give a platform for the Iranian people who are fighting against the Islamic regime,’ Shams said.
Iran fans celebrate outside the stadium after beating Wales, 2-0, in a Group B stunner