How US, Iran match up on the pitch as tensions rise off it


DOHA, Qatar — Less than 24 hours from kickoff, the drama surrounding the United States males’s nationwide workforce’s match in opposition to Iran on Tuesday has reached fever pitch. Not solely is there every part to play for on the area, there’s a rising discontent between the geopolitical rivals away from the pitch.

Throughout this World Cup, discussions involving Iran have revolved round circumstances again house, the place 410 protestors have been killed in the two months of unrest following the loss of life of a 22-year-old lady whereas in custody of the nation’s morality police. In an try to indicate solidarity with these protestors, the US Soccer Federation briefly displayed Iran’s nationwide flag on social media with out the emblem of the Islamic Republic, leading to fierce backlash, the Iranian authorities accusing the federation of eradicating the title of God from their nationwide flag.

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That’s the backdrop that Tuesday’s group-stage finale will play out in entrance of. On the area, the two international locations will likely be taking part in for a spot in the knockout rounds. The US sit third in Group B on two factors, following attracts in opposition to Wales and England, and should beat Carlos Queiroz’s facet in the event that they’re to make the spherical of 16. Second-placed Iran, in the meantime, will advance with the group stage with any end result aside from defeat.

This match is shaping up to be one in every of the most intense contests of the group stage. So how will it play out as soon as the sport kicks off? ESPN requested Jeff Carlisle and Gabriel Tan to interrupt down how these two groups match up.

What’s labored for the US? And what hasn’t?

The US have been excellent defensively up to now, which has been a nice shock. The middle of the protection was considered a weak spot, however Tim Ream’s insertion into the lineup alongside Walker Zimmerman has labored wonders. They have not carried out it alone both, with Tyler Adams successful a powerful 85.7% of his tackles. As a workforce, the US have been efficient with their urgent, flummoxing England, whereas Matt Turner has been stable in purpose. The solely hiccup — and sure, it was an enormous one — was the late penalty Zimmerman conceded in opposition to Wales.

The large situation for the Americans has been their incapability to seek out the internet on a constant foundation. Manager Gregg Berhalter has felt that his workforce has created probabilities however hasn’t completed them off. There is a few reality to that in that the US are underperforming when it comes to anticipated targets (xG) (1.42) in comparison with precise targets scored (1). The actuality is that xG mark ranks twenty sixth out of 32 groups in the World Cup, and the US are solely tied for fifteenth when it comes to likelihood creation with 14.

An enormous drawback is that the US have struggled to execute in transition, with the last go usually going awry. The Americans have had no success on set items both, which was considered a energy of this workforce. Against Wales, this was all the way down to some poor set-piece deliveries by Christian Pulisic, though this was rectified in opposition to England. — Carlisle

What’s labored for Iran? And what hasn’t?

A nightmare begin to the match noticed Iran fall to a lopsided 6-2 loss to England, and the one factor that clearly didn’t work was Queiroz’s overly cautious method, contemplating the quantity of targets they ended up conceding regardless of fielding a 5-4-1 formation crammed with defensive-minded gamers. The indisputable fact that the Three Lions have been on tune that night time as properly didn’t assist Iran’s trigger, however the outing was not with out positives as star striker Mehdi Taremi confirmed what he’s able to with two targets.

It additionally appeared as although Queiroz might need written off the England tie as one which Team Melli may afford to lose, as he left common first teamers Sardar Azmoun and Saeid Ezatolahi on the bench.

Four days later, a much-improved Iran confirmed what they’re manufactured from as they dominated Wales, even when they left it late to say a 2-0 win courtesy of a few injury-time strikes. With the two-pronged assault of Taremi and Azmoun at all times providing an choice, and with Iran’s broad gamers usually breaking with tempo and stretching the play, the Welsh protection was carved aside and the Iranians would possibly really feel they might have gained by an excellent greater margin.

The distinction between when Iran are on the again foot and after they wish to assault with intent is strikingly obvious. — Tan



Tim Ream and Walker Zimmerman supply their help to the Iranian individuals after U.S. Soccer eliminated social media posts together with the Iranian flag with out the Islamic Republic image.

Where this sport will likely be gained and misplaced

I believe two components of the area will likely be key. On the defensive facet, the US might want to snuff out Iran’s transition alternatives. Since Iran solely want a draw to advance, Team Melli are anticipated to take a seat again and attempt to soak up stress after which hit their opponents on the break. That will put a premium on the US ensuring that they keep locked in on Iran’s attackers, even when the Americans have the ball.

On the attacking facet, the opposition penalty space is the place the US will must be significantly better, each when it comes to supply and ending. It can also be a sport that’s crying out for the technical means of Giovanni Reyna. Whether which means beginning him at striker or out broad stays to be seen. Berhalter mentioned on Monday that he wasn’t trying to stick together with his three strikers — Jesus Ferreira, Josh Sargent, Haji Wright — but given the stakes involved, he needs to figure out a way to get his best attacking players on the field, and with there likely to be little space behind the defense, that means Reyna’s clean touches will and creativity will be needed. — Carlisle

Queiroz is aware that he has two top-class strikers in Taremi and Azmoun. In particular, the former already showed what he can do against quality opposition in England, and is no one-hit wonder either, having scored five times for FC Porto in this season’s Champions League alone.

The key to victory on Tuesday, as it was against Wales, could just be ensuring both of them receive a steady supply of chances in one-on-one situations. While both are decent in the air, Iran could be better off being more intricate in the final third as it worked well for them against both the English and the Welsh, whose backlines arguably have similar physical profiles as the United States.

Still, in order to start working the ball in and around the opposition area, they will have to be in possession first, and that is where the engine room battle between United States duo Adams and Weston McKennie and Iran’s Ezatolahi and Ahmad Nourollahi could prove pivotal. There is also the matter of curbing the influence of Pulisic and, having rotated between his right-backs, it will be interesting to see if Queiroz sticks with the goal scoring Ramin Rezaeian or reverts to the more defensive-minded Sadegh Moharrami. — Tan


US 2-1: I think the US get it done, but by the thinnest of margins. Look for McKennie to get one, if not both goals, via a set piece. — Carlisle

Iran 2-1: Team Melli will have no shortage of motivation to rise to the occasion and, for the second tournament running, they actually have the quality to back it up. Last time out, Spain and Portugal proved too much to overcome in the end, but Iran will believe that — having seen off Wales — they can do the same against the US to reach the round of 16. — Tan


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