The United States of America (USA) qualified for the last 16 of the FIFA World Cup as runners-up in Group ‘B’ after Christian Pulisic’s goal was enough to beat Iran 1-0 at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar yesterday.
In what was a shootout for qualification, it was the USA that relished the jeopardy, playing with great energy and attacking intent as Pulisic bundled home the crucial goal on 38 minutes.
The Chelsea man suffered an injury to his hip in that brave action and didn’t come out for the second half. It was later reported he had been taken to a local hospital with an abdominal injury.
USA missed his influence as the game wore on but despite enjoying plenty of territory, Iran couldn’t find the quality to find an equaliser that would have been enough to send them through. The onus was on the USA to make the running as they knew nothing, but a win would be good enough for qualification. Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson were playing like wingers rather than full-backs and their intensity out wide set the tone for a barnstorming first half from USA. Timothy Weah was the main beneficiary of the vibrant USA attacks but his composure was lacking at key moments, firstly looping a rushed header from 12 yards straight at Alireza Beiranvand before rushing a finish moments later after some superb play from the lively Josh Sargent.
It seemed only a matter of time before the opening goal landed and Pulisic delivered for his country.
Weston McKennie sprayed a pass out to Dest, who nodded down for Pulisic in the six-yard box. He did enough to force the ball home but he collided with Beiranvand in the process and was replaced at the break with a problem to his hip area. Iran had to go for it after the break and Saman Ghoddos set their intent by driving into the back post from a right-wing cross but headed over the bar. Despite lots of possession, Iran struggled to test USA goalkeeper Matt Turner. The best chance fell to Morteza Pouraliganji, who headed a free kick agonisingly wide of the post. (C.D)