So, it all comes down to this. Only a win will do for the USMNT who are hoping to punch their ticket to the Round of 16 for the second consecutive World Cup appearance. After an impressive performance against front-runners England which earned them a point, Gregg Berhalter’s men control their own destiny. If they are able to find a crucial victory against the Iranians at the Al Thumama Stadium, the result of the Wales vs England game will not impact their qualification, although a Wales win would mean the United States would top the group.
Iran were battered 6-2 by England last Monday, but xG would suggest it was a closer contest than that; England’s xG of 2.11 wasn’t much higher than Iran’s 1.75. Star striker Mehdi Taremi scored both of their goals in that match, but the first didn’t come until his side were already 4-0 down. Against Wales, the Iranians came out as deserved winners, although it took until the eighth minute of stoppage time for them to find a goal. Obviously, the red card to Wayne Hennessey helped, but that didn’t come until the 86th minute. Overall, Iran outshot Wales 21 to 10, but only put 6 of them on target, hitting the woodwork twice in the meantime. They certainly won’t be a pushover and will have extra motivation, as a win would see them progress through the group stage for the first time ever.
The United States, however, should have the quality to find the victory they so desperately need. As I mentioned in my recap of the match against England, the Americans were very impressive and went toe to toe with one of the tournament favorites. Unlike the opener against Wales, their performance was consistent across all 90 minutes. The midfield three of Musah, McKennie, and Adams were superb. Pulisic and Weah were influential and dangerous, but couldn’t quite find the back of the net. Should Berhalter’s team be able to replicate that level of performance, they should have more than enough to beat an Iran team which, despite its resilience, does not possess anywhere near the amount of quality that the USMNT does. I’m confident every player in that US locker room would label this the biggest game of their career thus far, and so lack of motivation should not be a factor.
This is a massive game on the very biggest stage, with the hopes of two nations on the line. I cannot wait. My prediction? United States 2-0 Iran.