DOHA, Qatar (WCMH) — A 38th minute goal by Christian Pulisic was enough for the United States men’s soccer team to beat Iran 1-0 to advance to the FIFA World Cup knockout round.
The victory for the Americans at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha clinched a second-place finish in Group B, setting up a Round of 16 game on Saturday against the Netherlands. England defeated Wales 3-0 in the other Group B match to win the group. The Three Lions will play Senegal on Sunday.
USA manager Gregg Berhalter, formerly of the Columbus Crew, made two changes to the starting lineup from the 0-0 draw to England. Josh Sargent got the nod up top over Haji Wright while Cameron Carter-Vickers made his World Cup debut, replacing Walker Zimmerman at center back.
The Americans came out of the blocks very quickly as Pulisic tried a solo run through the middle of the pitch in the first two minutes. He was met by four Iranian defenders before he could get into the box.
The US kept up the attacking momentum throughout the early stages of the game, peppering in crosses into the box that lacked a final touch towards goal. Iran’s defense took the pressure and loaded the box to block crosses and shots from the Americans.
In the 26th minute, the first clear chance of the half came after a Josh Sargent shot deflected high in the air towards a wide open Timothy Weah. Weah tried a header in the boc but it lacked power and was easily grabbed by Iranian keeper Alireza Beiranvand. Weah had another shot at goal a few minutes later but skied it over the bar.
The United States broke the deadlock in the 38th minute starting with a lob pass from Weston McKennie in midfield to the right wing for Sergino Dest. As Dest crossed it into the middle, Pulisic ran towards goal to finish it home to give the USA the lead. As he scored, the Chelsea man took a hit to the groin and returned to the pitch after a few minutes to recover.
Before the half, Weah found his way through for a breakaway that he scored to seemingly make it 2-0 but officials ruled it offside by a narrow margin. Iran did not register a single shot throughout the first half as they entered the tunnel down 1-0 at the break.
Pulisic’s knock was enough to take him out as Berhalter substituted in Brendan Aaronson to start the second half. 6 minutes into the second half, Iran created its first chance with a cross to the six that substitute Saman Ghoddos connected with on a low header that went high.
Iran picked up its aggressiveness in the second-half as they played for their World Cup lives and needed just a draw to advance. The Americans locked down into a defensive shell in the final 10 minutes plus added time to hold on for the three points and its place in the last 16.
This is the third consecutive FIFA World Cup the USMNT has advanced past the group stage. The United States has not advanced to the quarterfinals since 2002, when they beat Mexico 2-0 in the Round of 16.