The United States is advancing.
Thanks to Christian Pulisic’s first-half goal, the USMNT beat Iran 1-0 in the Group B final of the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Tuesday.
Iran and USMNT came out with 4-3-3 starting formations. It’s a common setup for the United States under Gregg Berhalter, with Carlos Quieroz guiding it to the second straight World Cup game after opting for a five-man comeback against England.
Some of the tactical changes for the United included Cameron Carter-Vickers making his World Cup debut at right centre-back replacing Walker Zimmerman, with Josh Sargent’s holding game at the No.9 position favored over Haji Wright .
Yunus Musah also operated in the right center spaces with Weston McKennie swapping to the left, a difference from the first two games of the USA group stage.
As expected, USA controlled possession throughout the first half, at one point reaching a whopping 69%. Iran settled for a low 4-4-1-1 block to break through in transition with Medhi Taremi and Sardar Azmoun as the top selling points, but Tim Ream and Carter-Vickers cleared the long balls well from Iran.
Iran’s low block also emphasized being compact in the middle to force the United States to play wide, so Sergiño Dest and Antonee Robinson pushed to maintain width and send more crosses. This led to the United States getting 6-2-2 forms in the lead with McKennie and Tyler Adams staying back and Musah joining the attack.
But Iran’s back four had a tough time when they were uncoordinated, and it came back to haunt the team when McKennie picked out Dest making a run behind Iran’s left-back with a lobed balloon. Dest’s excellent first touch saw him send a quick cross into the box, which Pulisic sent home in the 38th minute.
However, Pulisic suffered an abdominal injury after Alireza Beiranvand’s knee collided with him just in front of the net. Pulisic managed to hold on until the end of the first half, but Brenden Aaronson replaced him to start the second.
Iran was expected to shift into high gear offensively for much of the second half. Most of the action came from crosses from the right flank, but the United States did well to clear the ball or saw an Iranian shot miss the target.
USA locked in with the 4-4-2 center block and low block they succeeded with against England, but the Stars and Stripes simply couldn’t control possession as effectively compared to the first half.
Eventually, Walker Zimmerman’s 82nd-minute substitution for Tim Weah saw the United States return to a 5-3-2/5-4-1 look with Musah and Aaronson pushing to press whichever side of the ball.
In the end, the United States hung on with nine more minutes of stoppage time.
Next up for the United States in the Round of 16 is the Netherlands on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET, 7 a.m. PT at Khalifa International Stadium. The Netherlands finished top of Group A with a 2-0 win over Senegal, a 1-1 draw with Ecuador and a 2-0 win over Qatar.