World Cup 2022: USMNT clinch last 16 spot with nerve-shredding win over Iran

Al Thumama, Qatar - The USMNT survived a heart-stopping finale to advance to the next round of the World Cup after Christian Pulisic's first-half goal sealed a 1-0 win over Iran.

USMNT players celebrate at the end of their 1-0 win over Iran.
USMNT players celebrate at the end of their 1-0 win over Iran.  © REUTERS

TiIt wasn't pretty and it sure as hell wasn't easy, but Greg Berhalter's team have made it to the last 16 of the tournament, courtesy of a performance that alternated between control and steely determination.

Having first dealt with an Iran side playing a low block and more concerned with defending, the US had to show a different side to its game as the minutes ticked on and the dynamic shifted.

Pulisic's 38th minute goal – a close-range finish, courtesy of Sergiño Dest's clever assist, that cost him an injury – was richly deserved, and halftime came with the Americans clearly on top, if not further ahead because of an offside call going against Tim Weah.

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But with the second half progressing, so did Iran's will to come out and get the equalizing goal that would have guaranteed second place in Group B. It wasn't exactly a siege, but there was some serious defending to do. Carlos Queiroz's team had most of the ball over the final period, which stretched into almost 10 minutes of stoppage time.

But despite a few nervy moments right at the end, caused mostly by Iran's players pleading for penalties, the USMNT handled everything that came their way and booked their tickets out of the group for the first time since 2018.

Christian Pulisic (2nd from r.) scores the winner against Iran in the 38th minute.
Christian Pulisic (2nd from r.) scores the winner against Iran in the 38th minute.  © REUTERS

Given the build-up of pressure ahead of this game and its charged context, and the undefeated record, that's a good achievement for Berhalter and his players. A last 16 matchup with the Netherlands, who topped group A with a 2-0 win over Qatar, awaits on Saturday.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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