World Cup 2022: Iran vs USA match preview | Qatar World Cup 2022 News

Only one of them can progress from Group B in a football match which is unavoidably being viewed through a prism of political politics.

Who: USA vs Iran

Where: Al Thumama Stadium is in Al Thumama (Qatar)

When: Tuesday 29 November at 10pm (1900 GMT).

FIFA ranking Iran (20), USA (16).

The USA and Iran are locked in a grudge match. Two countries that have been divided by politics and a long history of animosity, they were brought together by the World Cup draw in rare matchup. Partisans from both sides seized on the game to denigrate their opponent.

This was the way the game was advertised at the 1998 World Cup, where Iran beat the Americans 2-1. And while some supporters of Iran’s government used the win as evidence of their country’s inevitable victory over the “Great Satan”, it was also seen by others as an opportunity to show that the beautiful game could overcome divisions, emblemised by a pre-match photo with players from both teams intermingled amongst each other.

Fast forward to 2022 and they are again reunited on the group stage. The political divide is still there – and if anything, it’s more entrenched.

Iran and the USA can’t find agreement on a nuclear deal, leaving the former under the latter’s sanctions. Anti-government protests in Iran have attracted the world’s attention and the condemnation of the United States government. The Iranians accuse America of being involved in the protests.

Even though the World Since the Cup was launched, there have been many controversies. Iran demanded that the USA be expelled from the tournament, following a US Soccer social-media post which featured an altered version Iranian flag. And the former USA manager, the German Jurgen Klinsmann, has angered Iran by saying that unsportsmanlike behaviour was part of Iran’s “culture” while speaking to the BBC.

Iranian fans, for their part, are still divided over whether to even support the team, in light of the protests calling for women’s rights in Iran. Some fear that the government will use an Iranian victory over America for propaganda purposes.

All of that, and we haven’t even got to the footballing permutations of this game.

The USA must win, barring a surprise victory by Wales against England. World Cup’s knock-out stages, while the Iranians only need a draw.

That puts Iran’s manager Carlos Queiroz in a bind. Play to his defensive instincts and try to draw while betting on the English not losing. Or play to Iran’s attacking strengths, with star strikers Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi up top? They can both be deadly. Taremi already possesses two goals in his arsenal World Cup has scored five goals in five matches for FC Porto in the Champions League this year.

While the Americans may have been happy with their performance against England on Friday (where they held the higher-ranked side of the match to a draw), This will be a completely different game and the Americans will have to play the Iranians. The hope will be that the USA central midfield of Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and the particularly impressive Yunus Musah will be able to repeat their performance against England, when they largely won the battle in the middle of the park and repeatedly turned the ball over to allow Christian Pulisic to run at England’s defence. 

The Americans will feel confident that they can defeat Iran if the USA keeps England still, as opposed to England’s humiliating defeat of Iran during the opening round. But Iran’s win against Wales appears to be a truer reflection of their abilities than the humiliation against England.

And with the Americans forced to chase a goal to have any hope of going through, the USA defence will have to keep Azmoun and Taremi quiet – which will be easier said than done. Are you willing to forget geopolitics even for 90 minutes. This might prove even more difficult.

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