It's game day and the pinnacle of the USMNT's World Cup hopes in 2022 and Iran stands in their way. Facing elimination with anything other than a win, the Americans will face off against an Iran side that has shown some scary skill in Qatar. In this prematch report, we will break down the Iranians and what to expect from the USMNT as they try to qualify for the Round of 16.
Game Kick: 2:00 PM EST, Tuesday, November 29th on FOX
What can USMNT expect against Iran?
American form going into Tuesday
The first game for the Americans was a tale of two halves; one of sheer dominance and one of shellshock from a young squad. Wales was put on their back heels experiencing Berhalter Ball in full force, with the USMNT causing mistakes and multiple chances that included a culminating strike from Tim Weah in the 36th minute. Throughout the first 45 minutes, the United States showed the youth movement was up for the challenge, capable of quality football that was a delight to behold.
When the second half came around, however, the tune changed significantly. A Welsh team that was tasting its first chance at the World Cup in over half a century was not about to let their first game back end with a 1-0 whimper. The USMNT was pressed high with constant barrages into the box, focused on star Welsh forward Gareth Bale. Eventually, the youth that propelled the USMNT in the first half suffered a major mistake in the second. An ill-timed and ill-conceived tackle from Walker Zimmerman gave Bale the opportunity to pulverize a penalty kick to end the game in a 1-1 deflating tie between the US and Wales.
On Black Friday, the harrowing challenge of an English side that won their previous game 6-2 was upon this group. Chances were slim for America, especially considering the brutal end they suffered against Wales. What transpired over 90 minutes with one of the top five most talented sides in the 2022 World Cup put all those worries to rest.
Ten shots, one on goal, 45-55 possession control, no yellow cards, and seven corner kicks. That is the stat line for a surprisingly dominant performance for the USMNT against the Group B leader. Christian Pulisic continued his coming out party on the world stage with another masterclass performance, Sergino Dest showed his time at Barcelona & AC Milan had done wonders for his confidence from the right-back position, and keeper Matt Turner made three crucial saves as he continued building assurance that Tim Howard would not be the only capable American goalie in the World Cup.
All told, the USMNT has largely lived up to the hype and expectation thus far. The younger players have proven that international, quality experience amongst Europe's best was the right call. Many of our best players have not folded under the pressure of the moment as they've played in top-flight competitions at the club level, preparing them for Qatar and beyond. The 0-0 tie against England was informative for those of us concerned that the shock of Wales' second half would carry over. No USMNT fan can worry that these boys will not be fully prepared to fight to the bitter end against Iran later today.
The Iranians and their monster striker
It has been six matches in a row that Iran has scored at least one goal. This team is one that punches well above its weight, exhibited best when the national team shocked Wales with an emphatic 2-0 victory. Much of the offensive firepower for the Iranians stems from the man at the front of the formation; FC Porto's Mehdi Taremi. With 62 caps and 30 goals in international play, the entirety of the Iranian offense will be put on the capable shoulders of Taremi. In this tournament, #9 already has two goals and will be looking to take on more against a battle-tested USMNT back four.
What Iran will we see remains a bigger question. There is the ugly, downtrodden, defensively hapless team that got six put on them by England. Then there's the sparkplug, chippy surprise that beat a Wales team riding on a high and winning 2-0. All lanes will flow through Taremi, along with midfielder Ali Gholizadeh and forward Sardar Azmoun.
A hard-fought win with a lot of action, I expect the USMNT to go all out and win a nail-biting 3-2 powderkeg to advance to the Round of 16.