For the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) at the World Cup, the knockout stage has already arrived after days of political unrest and scathing off-field jabs between the nations; nothing less than a victory on Tuesday against Iran in a winner-takes-all match will do.

Any side that wins will advance to Qatar 2022’s round of 16, and the USMNT will be eliminated from the competition even if the match ends in a tie.

The two nations have not had a formal diplomatic relationship since April 1980 as a result of Iran occupying the American Embassy in November 1979, following the Islamic Revolution in that nation. As a result, the game will be fraught with political tension.

State-run Iranian media demanded that the US be expelled from the 2022 World Cup after US Soccer changed the flag of Iran on its social media accounts to show support for Iranian protesters ahead of the game.

After the England game, Berhalter told reporters, “The thing about soccer is that you meet so many different people from all over the world and you’re linked by the common love of the sport of soccer.”

“I expect the game to be fiercely contested because both sides want to go to the next round, not due of politics.

We are soccer players, and both we and they will compete. That is all there is to it.

In a press conference on Monday, Iran coach Carlos Queiroz stated that the USMNT is the best team in their World Cup group, but he didn’t hold back from making overt criticisms of the US.

The USMNT has so far drawn both of its matches, a scoreless tie against a star-studded England team and a 1-1 draw against Wales after losing a late lead.

The USMNT’s young “golden generation” underwent its toughest test to date against England and appeared to be the more dangerous of the two teams for much of the match before fending off late pressure from England.

For the US, there were many positive aspects of that game.

Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah, and Weston McKennie outperformed their English counterparts in midfield, Christian Pulisic was every bit the imaginative playmaker his team needs him to be, and the team’s defence held for the first shutout of a European opponent at a World Cup since 1950.

Iran is currently ranked four places below the USMNT in the FIFA World Rankings, but the USMNT will be wary of its opponent after Iran’s dramatic 2-0 victory over Wales on Friday preserved its own chances of qualifying for the World Cup.

After Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was sent off, Iran scored both goals in stoppage time: the first was a beautiful strike from Rouzbeh Cheshmi in the 98th minute, and the second was a chip from Ramin Rezaeian over replacement goalkeeper Danny Ward.

Iran is happy to have defeated Wales.
Iran is happy to have defeated Wales.
Images by Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty

The outcome puts Iran’s World Cup back on track after it was somewhat derailed by a 6-2 loss to England in the tournament’s opening match, and it revealed a truer indication of the talent contained within the team as it seeks to advance to the knockout stages of a World Cup for the first time in its history.

Carlos Queiroz, the coach of Iran, remarked following the match against Wales, “Now, we need to be confident that we are good enough to go to the second round.”

“As we witnessed against Wales, the US has a terrific team as well.

“Our preparation begins with a decent rest, refresh the mind, push all the complimentary and rubbish things outside of our brains and focus on our aim because what we want to accomplish is to provide this gift to Iranian fans,” the narrator said.

Iran is competing in the game amidst internal unrest as a result of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, who passed away after being imprisoned by Iran’s morality police, purportedly for failing to adhere to the nation’s conservative clothing code. Her death provoked nationwide demonstrations. Since then, the protests have been violently suppressed by the Iranian security forces.

Iran’s players remained silent during the playing of the national anthems before Monday’s match against England in what was generally regarded as a show of support for those demonstrating at home, while they chanted the national anthem, albeit subduedly, before their second game against Wales.

The families of the Iranian players have been threatened with imprisonment and torture if the players don’t “behave” before the match against the USA on Tuesday, according to a source engaged with the security of the games this week.

The players were reportedly summoned to a meeting with members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps after refusing to sing the national anthem before their opening match against England. There, they reportedly learned that their families would suffer “violence and and torture” if they did not sing the anthem or if they participated in any political protests against the Tehran regime.

Regarding Iran’s domestic circumstances, fans have also voiced their opinions. A pitch invader waving a rainbow flag and wearing a shirt with the words “RESPECT FOR IRANIAN WOMAN” and “SAVE UKRAINE” written on it briefly stopped the Monday match between Portugal and Uruguay at the Lusail Iconic Stadium.

In the second Group B game, England will play Wales in an attempt to lock up its practically guaranteed spot in the knockout rounds.

If England defeats Wales, the USMNT will finish first in the group, provided Iran is defeated. On the other hand, if England loses, the USMNT will finish second.

If it came in second, the Netherlands would be its most likely opponent; if it came in first, either Ecuador or Senegal.