Christian Pulisic fired the USA into the last 16 Globalism Cup on Tuesday as the Americans beat Iran 1-0 in a politically charged grudge match.
Chelsea star Pulisic scored the only goal of the match in the second group in the 38th minute, to advance to the second round with the Netherlands, who won Group A on Saturday.
The victory was no less than US coach Greg Berhalter’s young side deserved in what was only the third international football encounter between the two bitter ideological rivals.
The colorful standoff was marked by steadily rising tension as Iran’s Football Federation on Sunday called on FIFA to sanction the United States Soccer Federation for publishing an altered version of their country’s flag on social media.
But despite the lively atmosphere at Doha’s Al-Thumama Stadium, Tuesday’s match was played without controversy as the United States avenged their 1998 World Cup defeat to Iran to knock out the Asian qualifiers from the tournament.
Iran fans cheered their team on the pitch at the start of the match amidst a deafening cacophony of air horns and cheers from the 42,127 crowd.
But despite the fearful reception, the Americans seemed more at ease, and quickly established their dominance.
United States captain Tyler Adams and Juventus captain Weston McKinney dominated the action in midfield to leave Iran struggling to gain a foothold.
– Attacking ambition –
The USA signaled their offensive ambition just two minutes later, and Pulisic lunged forward menacingly before being dispossessed.
This was what would happen when they laid siege to the Iranian target.
Valencia midfielder Younes Musa fired the ball over the bar and Pulisic failed to get enough power to head in a cross from Anthony Robinson.
Fullback Sergino Dest was a constant threat down the right flank for the Americans, hitting a cross in the 17th minute that Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand could only parry.
After unremitting US pressure, the breakthrough finally came in the 38th minute.
A great cross from McKinney was picked up by Dest down the right.
The AC Milan defender headed in the goal and Pulisic was on hand to end the match bravely.
There was concern among the American fans that Pulisic would need constant treatment after his heavy collision with Beiranvand, but it was the Iranians and the boisterous fans who let the wind down because of the goal.
The crowd immediately became quieter and the USA twice came close to doubling their lead before halftime.
Josh Sargent and Tim Weah combined well on an impressive counter-attack but the last ball lost its way.
Then in injury time, McKennie’s superb pass found the brilliantly finishing Weah past Beiranvand only to have him ruled offside.
Knowing that a tie would send them through to the second round, the Iranians ramped up the pressure in the second half.
But substitute Saman Quddous wasted two amazing chances to get his team into the game, heading in from close range before firing a shot over the bar in the 65th minute, aiming it all the way.
Saeed Ezzatullah curled a long-range shot over the bar shortly after as the Americans continued to live dangerously.
Iran threatened again in the last 10 minutes when Ali Karimi failed to find a sensational cross from Ezzatullah.
A header from Morteza Bouraliganji whizzed wide in stoppage time, then Mehdi Taremi got calls for a penalty after tangling with Cameron Carter-Vickers, letting the Americans’ nerves fray before their team clung on to a famous win.
Read all files The latest sports news over here