Tuesday is the day of reckoning as Iran and the United States go head-to-head in a high-stakes 2022 World Cup Group B clash at 7.00 pm.
History beckons for ‘Team Melli’ as they bid to progress beyond the World Cup group stages for the first time after five busted attempts.
Carlos Queiroz’s men have taken their fans through an emotional rollercoaster in Qatar amid rising tensions back in the country, often on display during the pre-game national anthem.
Iran did a stellar job bouncing back from an embarrassing 6-2 defeat to England in the opening round by putting on a late show to sink Wales 2-0 last time out.
The Islamic Republic took full advantage of Wayne Hennessey’s second-half expulsion, though they left it agonisingly late.
Goals from Roozbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian in the 98th and 101st minute, respectively, ensured their first-ever World Cup triumph over European opposition.
While a draw would suffice for Iran’s maiden progression into the knockout stage, provided Wales fail to beat England in Group B’s other fixture, only victory will do for the US.
After Gareth Bale’s late equaliser stole them two points in a day-one 1-1 draw with the Red Dragons, Gregg Berhalter’s team delivered a rock-solid performance to hold the Three Lions to a scoreless stalemate.
Having qualified for the knockout phase in their last two World Cup participations, the USMNT won’t settle for anything less in Qatar, but they’ll have to earn it.
Iran’s scoring prowess late in World Cup matches has earned them a reputation as ‘drama kings,’ with five of their last six goals at the tournament coming in 90th-minute stoppage time.
As bizarre as it looks, two of their four goals in Qatar have arrived beyond the 100th minute, suggesting the USMNT will have to keep their eyes firmly on the ball until the final whistle.
Mehdi Taremi, who slotted home a 103rd-minute penalty against England, was responsible for creating eight opportunities against Wales last time out, the most of any player in the World Cup group stages since 2010.
Not as nearly as prolific as their opposition, the US have found goals hard to come by of late, netting only twice in their last five outings, all of which they failed to win (D4, L1).
Interestingly, the USMNT’s uneventful 0-0 draw against England in round two marked their first scoreless game at the World Cup in their 35th fixture.
Since only three points would send Berhalter’s team into the round of 16, the US’s dismal 14-game form at the World Cup (W2, D6, L6) could dismay their spirits.
Iran vs United States Head-to-Head
If you’re looking for an omen, Iran’s first-ever victory at the World Cup finals came at the expense of non-other than the US.
Goals on either side of half-time grabbed Team Melli a 2-1 win in the 1998 group stages, dispatching the Americans home.
The countries met each other in a friendly game two years later, sharing the spoils in a 1-1 draw in California.
Iran vs United States Potential Line-ups
Iran (4-4-2): Hossein Hosseini; Ramin Rezaeian, Majid Hosseini, Morteza Pouraliganji, Milad Mohammadi; Ali Gholizadeh, Ahmad Nourollahi, Saeid Ezatolahi, Ehsan Hajsafi; Mehdi Taremi, Sardar Azmoun.
United States (4-3-3): Matt Turner; Sergino Dest, Walker Zimmerman, Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson; Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah, Weston McKennie; Christian Pulisic, Timothy Weah, Haji Wright.
Iran vs United States Prediction
The US should be flexing their attacking muscle if they are to stand a chance against a surprisingly well-performing Iran side.
But on the evidence of the Iranians’ second goal against Wales, leaving space behind would be a grave mistake.
Against the odds, we expect the Asian side to secure progression by the skin of their teeth.
Iran 1-1 United States
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