Diplomatic foes Iran, US clash in winner-takes-all contest

Published November 29, 2022
DOHA: Nathan Ake of the Netherlands takes part in a practice session at the Qatar University on Monday, on the eve of their Group ‘A’ match against Qatar.—AFP
DOHA: Nathan Ake of the Netherlands takes part in a practice session at the Qatar University on Monday, on the eve of their Group ‘A’ match against Qatar.—AFP

DOHA: The United States and Iran, diplomatic rivals for more than 40 years, clash on the football pitch on Tuesday, their places at the World Cup on the line in a fitting finale for the most politically charged group at this year’s tournament.

The national team coaches sidestepped the icy bilateral relations, saying they were focused on the tournament and its ability to bring people together.

Washington and Tehran severed diplomatic relations in 1980 after the Islamic revolution. Ties have been strained in recent years when then-President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of an Iran nuclear deal. The United States killed a top Iranian general in 2020 and Tehran responded with missile strikes at US forces based in Iraq.

“I envision the game being hotly contested for the fact that both teams want to advance to the next round, not because of politics or because of relations between our countries,” said US coach Gregg Berhalter.

Iran’s dramatic 2-0 win over Wales and the US team’s tense goalless stalemate against England on Friday set up a tantalising final round of Group ‘B’ matches.

England, sitting top with four points, face bottom side Wales, meaning the Iran-United States contest will decide which team goes through to the round of 16.

The eagerly awaited meeting is a rematch of the 1998 World Cup group stage contest, dubbed the “mother of all games”, which Iran won 2-1. In a symbolic moment before that match at Lyon’s Stade Gerland, the Iranian players gave white roses, a symbol of peace in the country, to their American opponents.Berhalter, whose exuberant side drew 1-1 with Wales in their group opener, described the match as his team’s “first knockout game” of the World Cup and was wary of the threat posed by Iran after their second-half assault against Wales.

“Now we need to be sure that we are good enough to go to the second round,” Iran coach Car­los Queiroz said after his team kept alive their hopes of a first ever trip to the knockout stage.

“The US is a brilliant team as well, as we saw them against Wales.

“Our preparation starts with a good rest, refresh the minds and put all the complementary and garbage things outside of our minds and focus on our goal, because what we want to do is to give this gift to Iranian fans.”

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

Police Lines bombing
Updated 31 Jan, 2023

Police Lines bombing

Where the menace of terrorism is concerned, the government and opposition need to close ranks and put up a united front.
Oil price hike
31 Jan, 2023

Oil price hike

THE record single-day increase in petrol prices, preceded by massive currency depreciation, signifies the ...
Babar Azam’s award
31 Jan, 2023

Babar Azam’s award

BABAR Azam might not have lifted many trophies as Pakistan’s all-format captain in the last year but the star...
Blatant Islamophobia
Updated 30 Jan, 2023

Blatant Islamophobia

Muslim extremists and terrorist outfits are emboldened by hateful acts.
Modern slavery
30 Jan, 2023

Modern slavery

MODERN slavery is a wide-ranging term that can encompass a multitude of scenarios. Common to all of them, however, ...
Remarkable Sania
30 Jan, 2023

Remarkable Sania

BRINGING to a close a career in which she smashed stereotypes, Sania Mirza delivered almost the perfect ending in ...