When the U.S. plays Iran in the World Cup, what’s at stake?

At this year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar, a common theme is how football unites the world.

This adage will be put to the ultimate test on Tuesday, when the United States and Iran play a crucial group stage match at Al Thumama .

How essential? Both national teams desire a spot in the World Cup’s knockout rounds, where the initial 32 teams are reduced to 16. Iran has never reached this point. After failing to qualify for the last World Cup, the United States has spent the last four years building up their men’s team. Getting to the knockout stage is a must for them to prove that their work was worth it.

Iran must be defeated for the U.S. to advance. Four years culminate in a single match.

“We said this team would be judged by its performance at the World Cup, so that’s fine, American coach Gregg Berhalter said Monday in Doha. We will address the issue. We are intent on winning tomorrow.”

Iran, who can still advance with a tie, is expected to leave nothing on the field in pursuit of a victory.

The focus is simple within the cocoons of team practices, meetings, and meals. Every time both teams have left the tournament’s perfectly green football fields, though, more and more things have gotten in the way of the match.

Watch Iran vs USA 0-1 − All Gоals & Extеndеd Hіghlіghts | FiFa World Cup 2022 HD


Beginning with a silent anthem

Initially, the issues involved only Iran, as the country’s recent unrest symbolically played out at this World Cup.

It began prior to Iran’s first match against England, when the Iranian players refused to sing their national anthem. According to new reports, the team was then summoned to a meeting with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, where players’ families were threatened with imprisonment or torture if they refused to sing in the future or participated in any other political protest against the Iranian government. In opposition to Wales, the team sang. At that match, however, Iran’s domestic problems became more contentious among Iranian fans. The players’ on-field elation after defeating Wales 2-0 was overshadowed by ugly confrontations between fans supporting the protest movement at home and fans supporting the Iranian government, which has been violently repressing protesters.

Flags were one of the flashpoints during these confrontations. Some protest movement supporters displayed or attempted to display Iranian flags from before the revolution. With the assistance of Qatari security, government supporters confiscated these flags, reportedly ripping some of them away, and replaced them with flags of the current national Islamic Republic of Iran.

The controversy became even more heated when the United States entered the fray.

Be the Change sparks a conflagration.

Be the Change, a mission statement created by the U.S. Soccer Federation in response to the police killing of George Floyd, was frequently referenced in the lead-up to this year’s World Cup. This mission statement promoted an awareness and commitment to speak out against social injustices in the United States and around the world.

This past weekend, US Soccer issued a statement. And sparked a political uproar.

The objective was to distribute on social media images of the Iranian flag shorn of its Islamic emblem and inscribed with the phrase “God is great.” It was a way for the U.S. federation to show “support for the Iranian women fighting for fundamental human rights.”

The action garnered support, as well as anger and calls for the United States team, which was unaware of the federation’s plan, to be expelled from the World Cup.

The images of the altered Iranian flag were removed from social media, and the authentic flag was reinstated. The federation stated that the removal was not due to pressure, but rather because “we wanted to show our support for Iranian women for 24 hours”

They may have wanted the support to be temporary, but with tensions already high, the controversy followed both teams to Monday’s pregame press conferences.

Attempting to navigate toward soccer

Monday, while speaking to reporters, Berhalter willingly answered questions about football and Tuesday’s game, as well as questions about the flag flap — frequently from openly antagonistic members of the Iranian media contingent.

Although Berhalter apologized on behalf of the players and team, he stated multiple times that neither he nor the team had any prior knowledge of or involvement in the federation’s plan to alter the Iranian flag.

“We were unaware of U.S. Soccer’s statement,” Berhalter said, adding, “Of course, our thoughts are with the Iranian people, the entire country, and the entire team. However, we are focused on this match.”

Still, inquiries were posed that went beyond flags.

One of the most contentious moments occurred when an Iranian journalist reprimanded U.S. team captain Tyler Adams for incorrectly pronouncing “iran” as “eye-ran.” The Black 23-year-old apologized for the mispronunciation and then thoughtfully responded to a question about whether he was “OK to be representing [the U.S.], which has so much racism against Black people?”

“Discrimination exists everywhere,” said Adams, whose mother is white and who was raised in a white family. “Therefore, I was able to assimilate into different cultures with relative ease because I was exposed to a variety of cultures. You are aware that not everyone has this ease and capability. Moreover, it takes longer to comprehend. I believe that education is vitally important. Like, you just taught me how to pronounce your country’s name. Consequently, it is a process. I believe that seeing progress is the most important factor.”

Leave mental games behind

Even soccer questions had a political tint.

During the press conference for the Iranian team, a British reporter asked coach Carlos Queiroz if he would use the flag controversy to motivate his team.

If, after 42 years as a coach in this sport, Queiroz still believes he can win games with mental games, he believes he has learned nothing about the game.

Adams anticipates that Queiroz will repeat the aggressive, physical style of play that Iran displayed in its last match, a 2-0 victory over Wales.

“You could tell based on the group’s mentality. They were attacking, counterattacking, and performing all necessary actions “Adams said. Every moment of the game appeared to be an opportunity for them to score a goal.

Adams stated that both teams are treating this as a knockout match in which only the victor advances. Iran can actually tie and still advance.

In terms of U.S. tactics, Berhalter praised his team’s defense, particularly for keeping England scoreless in Friday’s 0-0 draw. Berhalter has heard the criticism that his team needs to find a way to score — the U.S. has only scored one goal in the tournament — but he does not believe that changing his offensive-minded forwards’ personnel is the solution.

Berhalter stated, “I think they’ve done a decent job for us.” “It is the responsibility of the rest of the group to provide them with quality [passes] so they can capitalize on some of these opportunities. We’ve been defending exceptionally well, which has kept us in games. In addition, we are aware that we will need to score a goal in order to win this game. Therefore, we maintain composure, have a plan, and will attempt to execute that plan.”

Calm. It is difficult to imagine anything about Tuesday’s match being tranquil. The players will endeavor.

But what about the viewers?

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