Pulisic leads the United States in the duel with Iran and classifies it to the round of 16

With a goal from his figure Christian Pulisic, the United States achieved a harrowing 1-0 victory over Iran on Tuesday in a high-tension duel that sealed their qualification to the round of 16 of the World Cup in Qatar.

Pulisic, a Chelsea striker, scored in the 38th minute the must-win goal for the United States, which finished second in Group B, to meet the Netherlands in the round of 16 match on Saturday.

England (7 points), who beat Wales 3-0 (1), finished top of the group, followed by the United States (5), Iran (3) and Wales (1).

Pulisic’s goal, who suffered a strong collision in that action for which he was substituted, resolved a match involved in a strong political charge but which took place without incident between the footballers, who greeted each other in a friendly way before the initial whistle.

The Al Thumama stadium, with 42,127 fans in the stands, was a pressure cooker, without a second of respite in the stands, in a deafening atmosphere mixed with World Cup tension and decades of political enmity.

The United States only needed victory to advance while Iran could suffice with a draw to qualify for their first round of 16.

In addition to its football significance, the match was surrounded by tension due to the conflicting history between the two countries, which broke diplomatic relations after the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, and due to the current protests against the Tehran regime motivated by the death of a young man in police custody.

The Iranian players unenthusiastically sang their national anthem again, as they did in their second game. In their debut against England they refused to do so, in a gesture interpreted as solidarity with the harshly repressed demonstrations in their country.

For the American team, absent in Russia-2018, the game was also of enormous importance, determined as it is to provide an injection of hope to its country for the World Cup that it will co-organize in 2026.

President Joe Biden himself sent a message of support to his footballers before the game: "we are all behind you".

The start of the game gave way to an overwhelming and non-stop symphony of vuvuzelas, beeps and chants.

Struggling to dominate the atmosphere, the Iranian fans, a noisy majority in the stands, tried to drown out the shouts of ‘USA’ every time they emerged.

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The United States, which feels more comfortable conceding the initiative and exploiting the verticality of its young players, had the challenge of building play and opportunities.

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Under the command of Adams and McKennie in midfield, the North American squad managed to easily combine into the rival box but did not capitalize on the early options of Yunus Musah Pulisic and Tim Weah.

Iran barely gave a small scare in minute 20 with a ball behind the back of central defender Cameron Carter-Vickers, a great novelty for the starting eleven, but his teammate Tim Ream managed to get in the way of the dangerous Sardar Azmoun.

The American advances achieved results in the 38th minute with a long serve by McKennie as Sergiño Dest broke in on the right, who crossed with a header upon arrival through the center of Pulisic, who he managed to finish off before colliding hard with the goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.

American soccer players and fans celebrated the goal in a big way while Pulisic, nicknamed ‘Captain America’ for the times he has saved his team, was treated on the ground for the blow.

The forward, who wants to vindicate himself in Qatar after difficult months at Chelsea, returned to the pitch after scoring his first World Cup goal but was substituted at half-time.

Back from the locker room, the veteran coach Carlos Queiroz ordered Iran to advance the lines and it didn’t take long for them to put the North American center back pair, who had never played together, in trouble.

Newcomer Saman Ghoddos had two great chances almost back to back, first with a high header after gaining position from Dest and then with a top-class volley that just missed the post.

Clinging to the result they were looking for, the United States made defensive changes to dig in but could not avoid two last big scares in injury time with a header from Morteza Pouraliganji that grazed the post and a penalty claimed by Mehdi Taremi.

The United States survived the tachycardic final and will return to the round of 16 at the hands of the most promising generation in its history.

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