If the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) is going to write a storybook about the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the tale will need to include a win over the Iranian National Team. For the Americans, it is as simple as can be -one game, one win.
No other result will allow the U.S. to move on to the Round of 16. After a disappointing and winnable draw with Wales and a triumphant draw against England, the Americans are set to face Iran on Tuesday, November 29, at 1:00 p.m. CST.
Most experts view this match as a winnable one for the exceedingly young USMNT led by perennial head coach Gregg Berhalter. In both Group B matches so far, the U.S. team has shown the ability to be explosive and has challenged the defenses of both Wales and England. Were it not for an untimely foul against Wales that set up the tying penalty shot, the path to the knockout round would be much easier.
The Americans will need to find success against a backline style the team has struggled to overcome in past matches. Iran defensively compacts the middle and plays with a low block strategy that protects the defensive side of the field and forces offenses to move to the corners and rely on crossing kicks. While the Iranian team is not known for possessing an explosive offense, the defense can strangle most attackers to prevent scoring opportunities for the opponent.
This strategy worked well against Wales last week as the Iranian team jumped from fourth in Group B to second on the strength of a 2-0 victory over Wales. However, the team’s vulnerabilities were also exposed in the first match of the World Cup when England scored six goals against just two for the Iranians, both coming when the game was well out of hand.
The U.S. team had many golden opportunities against Wales and should have won, but a foul by Walker Zimmerman against Gareth Bale near the end of regulation allowed a one-on-one penalty opportunity that Bale put into the back of the net. Against England, the U.S. team earned 15 penalty calls compared to just nine against the Three Lions. Limiting the mistakes will be key against an Iranian team that is built to force hard choices late in games.
The American team has shown ferocity and fight through the first two matches and wildly presses forward to gain set pieces and open up opportunities for strikers to score. A strength of the team is the ability to accurately cross passes to put header shots on goal. With the speed and talent available, it is anticipated that the U.S. team will play through 90 minutes and ultimately triumph after tiring the Iranian defense out with constant pressure.
On defense, the U.S. team has been excellent. Aside from the one mistake in the first match with Wales, the team has given up few opportunities at on-goal shots. After putting six balls in the back of the net against Iran, England managed just three shots on goal. Goalkeeper Matt Turner earned the clean sheet with several athletic saves to prevent some of the best strikers in the sport from getting on the board.
A win for Iran also sees that team advance, while a draw does not necessarily eliminate the team. Iran would need Wales to triumph over England by at least four goals to advance with a draw against the U.S.