It was win or go home for Iran and (especially) the United States, and after 90 dramatic minutes, plus the usual large heaping of added-on times, it were the Star and Stripes who prevailed.
Iran didn’t have a shot in a purely defensive first half for them, putting the onus on the US to attack and create. And so they did, with the usual suspect (i.e. Christian Pulisic) pulling most of the strings, though Sergiño Dest was popping up regularly in dangerous positions on the right as was Tim Weah in the penalty area. But it was Pulisic who managed to break the deadlock late in the first, sacrificing his body (literally) to finish off a headed ball across the six-yard box from Dest — whose well-timed run was found by a perfect crossfield ball from Tyler Adams.
Pulisic didn’t even have a chance to celebrate his goal, staying on the ground in the goal, clearly in excruciating pain. After some minutes, he was able to get back on his feet and he even gritted out the remaining few minutes of the half, but he was unable to continue after the break with what the head coach called an “abdominal injury”.
Christian Pulisic lays his body on the line to deliver the United States the lead!!!!— Premier League USA (@PLinUSA) November 29, 2022
: @TelemundoSports | #FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/hrj8NaCEBW
Iran decided to start playing in the second half, needing a goal to get back on level terms and advance, and half-time substitute Saman Ghoddos twice had the goal at his mercy, but the Brentford man missed the target both times.
The US would suffer another injury when Josh Sargent was forced off after suffering a heavy tackle on his ankle, but they were able to see out the narrow victory and move on to the Last 16, where they will face Group A winners Netherlands. It was all hands to the defensive pump for the Americans in the final 20 minutes, but they survived.
In the other game of the group, England barely lifted a finger to despatch Wales, 3-0. Marcus Rashford grabbed a brace to stake his claim for tougher games. He’s tied for the tournament lead with three goals total. Phil Foden also got on the scoresheet in a game that featured none of the three Chelsea players in the squad.
England will take on Senegal in the Last 16.