The task is clear for the United States men’s national team when it plays Iran in its final Group B game of the World Cup at Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday: Win or go home.
While many teams still have multiple options in order to advance to the knockout phase of the tournament, including Iran, the Americans have no choice but to get the three points that come with a victory.
“It sets up our first knockout game of the World Cup,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said. “We win or we’re out of the World Cup.
“Anytime you’re in a World Cup and you get to go into the last group game in control of your own destiny, that’s a pretty good thing.”
The USMNT sits third in the group with two points (0-0-2) after tying Wales 1-1 and then England 0-0 in an impressive defensive effort. The top two teams advance. England has four points (1-0-1), Iran has three (1-1-0) and Wales sits last with one point (0-1-1) but is still alive in a long-shot scenario.
Getting a goal, much less a victory, will be a challenge for the United States since Iran only needs a tie to advance as long as Wales does not upset England and activate a goal-differential tiebreaker. It means Iran will have incentive overload on the defensive end.
England plays Wales concurrently with the U.S.-Iran game, with scoreboard watching also the order of the day.
Iran, which has never advanced out of the group stage, opened the World Cup with a 6-2 loss to England but rebounded for a 2-0 win over Wales.
“I really have to thank the Iranian fans. They helped us play 90 minutes of beautiful football,” Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said. “Now, we have to concentrate on the USA. We haven’t finished yet.”
The USMNT last reached the final 16 of the World Cup in 2014. The Americans did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup and their best finish was a spot in the 2002 quarterfinals.
Iran defeated the U.S. 2-1 in 1998 in only World Cup meeting between the countries.
Mehdi Taremi has two of Iran‘s four goals during this World Cup. Timothy Weah is responsible for the Americans’ lone tally.