DOHA, Qatar — Less than 24 hours into the match, the drama surrounding the US men’s national team match against Iran came to a head on Tuesday. Not only is there something to play for on the field, but also away from the field, dissatisfaction with geopolitical rivals is growing.

Throughout this World Cup, discussions involving Iran have revolved around conditions at home, where 410 protesters were killed in two months of unrest after the death of a 22-year-old woman in the custody of the country’s morals police. In an attempt to show solidarity with these protesters, the US Football Federation briefly displayed the national flag of Iran on social media without the coat of arms of the Islamic Republic, prompting a fierce backlash, the Iranian government accused the federation of removing God’s name from the national flag.

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It didn’t help that former USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann criticized Iranian football culture following their 2-0 victory over Wales on Friday.

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It is against this backdrop that the group stage final will take place on Tuesday. On the field, the two countries will compete for a place in the playoffs. The USA are third in Group B with two points after draws against Wales and England and must beat Carlos Queiroz’s side if they want to reach the round of 16. Iran, meanwhile, as runners-up, will advance to the group stage with any result other than defeat.

This match promises to be one of the most intense matches of the group stage. So how will it play out when the game starts? Sportzshala asked Jeff Carlyle and Gabriel Tan to share how the two teams match up.

What worked for the US? What is not?

So far, the US has been outstanding on the defensive, which has come as a pleasant surprise. The center of defense was considered a weak point, but the inclusion of Tim Rome in the lineup along with Walker Zimmerman worked wonders. They didn’t do it alone: ​​Tyler Adams won an impressive 85.7% of tackles. As a team, the USA were effective with their pressing, confusing England and Matt Turner was solid in goal. The only hitch – and yes, it was a big one – was a late penalty that Zimmerman conceded against Wales.

The big problem for the Americans was their inability to find a network on a permanent basis. Manager Gregg Berhalter believes his team created chances but didn’t convert them. There is some truth to the US being behind in terms of expected goals (xG) (1.42) compared to actually scored goals (1). The reality is that the xG mark ranks 26th out of 32 teams in the World Cup and the US is tied for 15th in terms of creating chances with 14.

The big problem is that the US has struggled to make the transition and the last pass has often failed. The Americans did not achieve success on set pieces, which were considered the strength of this team. In the match against Wales, this was due to a bad serve by Christian Pulisic, although this was corrected in the match against England. — Carlisle

What worked for Iran? What is not?

Nightmare start to tournament: Iran lost 6-2 to England, and the only thing that obviously didn’t work was Queiroz’s overly cautious approach given the number of goals they ended up conceding despite fielding 5-4- . 1 formation filled with defensive players. The fact that the Three Lions were also on top that night didn’t help Iran’s cause, but the game was not without its positives as star striker Mehdi Taremi showed what he could do with two goals.

It also looked as if Queiroz could write off the draw with England as Melly’s team could afford to lose as he left regular first team players Sardar Azmoun and Saeed Ezatolahi on the bench.

Four days later, a vastly improved Iran showed what they are made of by dominating Wales, even if they came too late to claim a 2-0 victory thanks to a pair of stoppage time strikes. With Taremi and Azmoun’s two-sided attack always offering an option, and with the Iranian flankers often losing pace and stretching the game, the Welsh defense was torn apart and the Iranians could feel they could win with more by a big margin. .

The difference between when Iran falls behind and when it deliberately wants to attack is strikingly clear. — Tan

Where this game will be won and lost

I think that two parts of the field will be key. As far as defense is concerned, the US will have to cancel Iran’s transitional capabilities. With Iran only needing a draw to move forward, Melly’s team is expected to sit back and try to absorb the pressure and then hit their opponents at half-time. This will prioritize the US if it stays away from the Iranian attackers even when the Americans have the ball.

As for the attacking side, the opponent’s penalty area is where the US should be much better in terms of serving and finishing. It’s also a game that appeals to Giovanni Reina’s technical ability. Whether this means he will start on the striker or on the flank remains to be seen. Berhalter said on Monday he had no intention of staying with his three strikers – Jesús Ferreira, Josh Sargent and Hadji Wright – but given the stakes, he needs to find a way to get his top attacking players onto the field. , and since there will likely be little room behind the defense, this means Reina will need clean hitting and creativity. — Carlisle

Queiroz knows he has two top-notch strikers in Taremi and Azmoun. In particular, the former has already shown what he can do against a quality opponent in England and he is no wonder either, having scored five times for Porto in the Champions League this season alone.

The key to winning on Tuesday, as with Wales, could be to ensure they both get a steady supply of head-to-head chances. While both are decent in the air, Iran could do better if they were more difficult in the last third, as it worked well for them against the English and Welsh, whose backlines have a physical profile perhaps similar to the American one.

However, to start working the ball in and around the opponent’s zone, they will need to first have possession of the ball, and this is where the battle in the engine room between the US duo Adams and Weston McKenny and the Iranians Ezatolahi and Ahmad Nurollahi can prove to be decisive. There is also the question of containing Pulisic’s influence, and by changing his right-backs, it will be interesting to see if Queiroz stays with the striker Ramin Rezayan or returns to the more defensive Sadeg Moharrami. — Tan


USA 2-1: I think the US will do it, but by the smallest margin. Look for McKenny to score one goal, if not both, from a set piece. — Carlisle

Iran 2-1: Team Melli will not lack the motivation to be at their best and for the second tournament in a row they really have the quality to back it up. Last time Spain and Portugal ended up being too strong to overcome, but Iran will believe that with Wales they can do the same against the US and reach the round of 16. — Tan