DOHA, Qatar – The difference between contenders and hopefuls at the World Cup is simple.
The best teams get the results they need when they need them. The others don’t. So while the U.S. men’s national team may not be among the title favorites at Qatar 2022, despite beating Iran with Christian Pulisic’s first-half goal and advancing to the knockout stage, their ability to to block the pressure and noise and erase the win that was required on Tuesday shows that there is something special about this USMNT.
“You have to enjoy this adversity, you have to enjoy the pressure that comes with a team that throws everything at you,” central defender Tim Ream said after he and his teammates made Pulisic’s goal count by rallying after of an Iranian attack over 54 seconds. half minutes, including nine minutes of stoppage time. “If you don’t enjoy it and start panicking, bad things happen. I looked around and saw 11 calm guys on the field, doing everything they could, putting their bodies on the line, to make sure the result stayed.
“And what a fantastic result it is.”
It’s not a joke. Tuesday’s win not only set up a huge round-of-16 matchup with the Netherlands on Saturday (10 a.m. ET, FOX and the FOX Sports app), but it marked the first time since the inaugural World Cup in 1930 that the United States has kept consecutive nets. sheets on the global stage.
“The end of the game is really what I’m most proud of, because it’s the mark of determination and an extreme amount of effort and endurance to hang in there and get the win and not give up,” the American coach said Gregg Berhalter.
After missing out on the last World Cup, the first goal of this rebuilt USMNT was to return to the sport’s biggest event. Once qualified, the minimum became exiting the group stage. But after taking a late lead in Wales in their first game and settling for a draw, the team was under significant pressure, even after holding England to a goalless draw in their second match The United States found themselves in the difficult position of having to beat a good Iranian team in their final group stage game. Suddenly, a match already charged due to the fractious political relationship between the two countries became a must-win.
Lesser teams would have crumbled under that kind of scrutiny. Instead, the fighting spirit of this historically green team — the U.S. has fielded the three youngest lineups at this World Cup, with Tuesday’s No. 1 — has been on display for all to see.
“You’ve got guys making plays, picking each other up in tough times, and we did that all game,” goaltender Matt Turner said.
They also showed quality. As much as the pass and the final shot were lacking for the Americans in the first round, Pulisic’s winner on Tuesday belongs in a museum. And it was no accident.
“We knew they were going to struggle with diagonal balls behind the backline, and that’s something we worked on,” said midfielder Weston McKennie, who started the play that led to the goal with exactly that type of pass. “We executed it according to plan.”
They also showed courage. Knowing full well that Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand would crush him, Pulisic still got to the spot he needed to after being set up by Sergiño Dest.
“He’ll do anything for his team for us to win,” U.S. captain Tyler Adams said of Pulisic.
Overall, it was a mature performance from a team that is growing before the eyes of the world. That evolving identity “starts to take shape from these performances,” Berhalter said. “You see how resilient this group is, you see how unified this group is, you see the kind of energy production they put into every game. And then along the way, there’s some pretty good football. And I think this it’s the American. spirit how this group plays. And I think people will appreciate that, especially at home.”
After taking an unbeaten record into the first round by winning when their backs were against the wall, new and old home fans have a tent tilt to look forward to this weekend. The Netherlands are three-time World Cup finalists and favorites, but this USMNT won’t go down without a fight.
“Maybe the underdog – the Dutch are a world power, and have been for many, many tournaments,” winger Brenden Aaronson said. “I think for us, it’s just going in there fearlessly and playing like we’ve been this whole tournament.”
If they do, there’s no reason Americans can’t get the result they want again.
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