USA-Iran Match Is Huge, and Not Only Over Soccer

Teams face each other Tuesday in World Cup showdown
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2022 6:21 AM CST
USA-Iran Soccer Match Has Huge Stakes
Tyler Adams of the United States heads the ball during the team's match against Wales on Nov. 21.   (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Teams USA and Iran play each other Tuesday in the World Cup, and the stakes are big for both teams on and off the field. The game begins at 2pm Eastern.

  • The soccer: The Americans must win if they want to advance to the next round. Iran will likely be able to move on with only a draw, per ESPN, which could lead to more conservative play from the team. Failure to advance for the US team would be a devastating blow, considering USA also failed to do so at the last World Cup. "We said this team is going to be judged on what we do at the World Cup," American coach Gregg Berhalter said Monday, per NPR. "So that's fine. We'll deal with it. We're focused on winning tomorrow."

  • The protests: Iran has been roiled by anti-government protests back home for weeks, and all eyes will be on the soccer team's behavior. Players did not sing the national anthem before their first game, which was seen as a gesture of support for the protests, though they did for their second game. CNN reports that members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard have threatened the players' families if they fail to "behave."
  • One view: In a Washington Post essay, Jason Rezaian writes that he always roots for Team USA. But on Tuesday, he'll be pulling for Iran. "Should Iran win, it would advance to the next round of the contest for the first time, capturing even more of the global spotlight for its admirable freedom fighters," he writes. Yes, it will be disappointing for the US, "but some things are even more important than soccer."
  • A controversy: On Monday, the US team again distanced itself from the US soccer federation's decision to remove Iran's official emblem from its flag as a gesture of support for the protests, reports the New York Times. "Our focus is on this match," said coach Berhalter at a news conference. He added: "Of course, our thoughts are with the Iranian people, the whole country, the whole team, everyone, but our focus is on this match.”
(More soccer stories.)

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