Stakes are excessive for U.S. heading into World Cup match versus Iran

In 4 years with the U.S. nationwide staff, Gregg Berhalter has coached 58 video games, traveled tens of 1000’s of miles, auditioned dozens of gamers and run too many coaching periods to rely.

All that work will now come right down to 90 minutes Tuesday when the U.S. faces Iran in its ultimate group-stage match of the 2022 World Cup with a berth within the knockout rounds at stake. And the situation couldn’t be easier: win and the U.S. goes on, lose or draw and it goes house.

“It sounds kind of illogical to judge four years on one game, but that’s our business,” Berhalter mentioned. “We said that this team is going to be judged on what we do at the World Cup. So that’s fine. We’ll deal with it.”

What the Individuals have achieved to date in Qatar would in all probability get a “C” on most report playing cards: they’ve executed simply sufficient to get by, drawing Wales and England to enter the ultimate group sport each unbeaten and winless. However they’ll need to convey their A sport in opposition to Iran, the lowest-ranked staff within the group however the one one standing between the U.S. and the following spherical.

⚽ 2022 Qatar World Cup

“This is a knockout game for both teams,” he mentioned. “So it’s going to be a high level of intensity.”

The U.S. made the Spherical of 16 thrice within the 4 earlier World Cups it has performed on this century. To try this once more, nevertheless, it will have to attain and its solely objective to date on this World Cup got here 36 minutes into its first sport with Wales. The Individuals have put only one different shot on objective.

Nonetheless Carlos Queiroz, the previous MLS coach who has taken Iran to a few World Cups, but received simply two video games, did his finest to tamp down expectations for his facet. Iran hasn’t superior out of group play since 1978, the 12 months earlier than the nation’s Islamic revolution.

“The team in this group that produced the best two performances was, without any doubt, the United States. They played two great and fantastic games,” he mentioned.

The winner Tuesday, he continued, can be the staff that rises to the event.

“The moment the curtains open, if you’re not ready to sing and dance, the gods of football can’t help you,” he mentioned.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz speaks during a news conference Monday.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz speaks throughout a information convention Monday forward of the staff’s World Cup match in opposition to the USA.

(Ashley Landis / Related Press)

For such an essential sport — or perhaps as a result of it’s such an essential sport — the pre-match information convention spun uncontrolled quickly. In lower than two weeks in Qatar, the U.S. staff has been compelled to discipline questions on staff’ welfare and LGBTQ rights. On Monday, Iranian journalists grabbed the microphone to make prolonged political statements earlier than asking Berhalter to clarify the presence of U.S. warships within the Persian Gulf and the state of the American economic system.

Captain Tyler Adams, who’s biracial, was berated for mispronouncing Iran, then requested why he was taking part in for the U.S. given the nation’s historical past of racism.

Each dodged the landmines artfully and stored the give attention to soccer, a topic the Iranians hardly ever touched on.

“For us it’s a soccer game against a good team. And it’s not much more than that,” Berhalter mentioned. “It’s a knockout game. Both teams want to go to the next round. Both teams are desperate to win the next round. And that’s how we’re looking at this match.”

The Iranians had been indignant {that a} handful of U.S. Soccer’s social media posts over weekend eliminated the Islamic Republic’s emblem from the Iranian flag. In keeping with a federation spokesman that was executed to indicate “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights,” a nod to the hundreds of thousands of Iranians who’ve taken to the streets to protest the dying of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody in September after being detained for carrying her hijab incorrectly.

A woman holds up a sign reading Mahsa Amini, the name of the woman who died in police custody in Iran.

A lady holds up an indication studying Mahsa Amini, the identify of the girl who died in police custody in Iran, after a World Cup match in Qatar between Iran and Wales on Friday.

(Francisco Seco / Related Press)

However Iranian state tv mentioned the U.S. federation’s transfer was akin to “removing the symbol of Allah” from the Iranian flag and demanded the American staff be disqualified from the match. On Monday, Berhalter apologized however mentioned the gamers and training workers weren’t conscious of the social media posts.

As for the sport, Berhalter mentioned he desires his staff to take their inspiration for the final time the U.S. met Iran in a World Cup in 1998, a sport Berhalter watched on Dutch TV.

“That game just sticks in my mind,” he mentioned. “What I saw from the opening whistle is one team really wanted to win the game and one team didn’t really want to win the game. They played really committed, really focused.”

In 1998 that dedicated staff was Iran, which received 2-1.

“For us to have a chance to advance,” Berhalter mentioned Monday, “that’s going to have to be the mind-set of our group.”