Iran v USA
Like 2010, the Americans have started with a pair of draws against European sides, one against an England team against whom they were heavy underdogs and one against a lesser-known foe on the world stage against whom they were favoured.
And like that tournament 12 years ago, the Americans’ math is also simple approaching Matchday 3: A win guarantees advancement, and anything else guarantees elimination.
But there’s two key immediate differences between their opponents in Iran this time around and Algeria back then.
1. Iran also has plenty to play for in terms of their own hopes to advance from the group
2. Iran is also objectively a better squad.
Following Iran’s triumphant 2-0 victory against Wales, recovering extremely well from the 6-2 thrashing by England in the opening game, Iran is now poised to make history and make the round of 16. They need either a win or draw against USA and they’ve sealed it (that is even if Wales beat England). The team played tremendously – with hunger, heart, spirit. It was pure passion across all the players and Iran was causing Wales problems from minute 1. They had a disallowed offside goal, followed by hitting the woodwork twice in the space of 20 seconds. Nevertheless, the players dug in and grinded out the 2-0 victory.
I feel Carlos Quieroz will play similar tactics against USA, who seem to be stronger than Wales this tournament. With USA only scoring one goal this tournament, the objective of Quieroz and the defence will be to keep a clean sheet.
That brings a different dynamic to this clash than on that historic day, remembered for Landon Donovan’s stoppage-time winner. The circumstances for this American team are also different. The 2022 squad is probably more talented, with more members playing Champions League football.
But the 2010 American team had three US national team all-timers in their prime — attackers Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, and goalkeeper Tim Howard. They had also been to South Africa a year before in a surprising run to the Confederations Cup final, where they lost to Brazil after taking down Spain in the semis.
Manager Gregg Berhalter’s group lacks that big tournament experience. That could play a role in the crucial moments of the Americans’ biggest match in eight years.
It’s become clear that Berhalter is going to ride Christian Pulisic as far as the Chelsea man will take him.
Pulisic has played all 180 minutes of the tournament so far and has been the primary driver of the American attack. He contributed the only assist of the tournament so far for the Americans, and he was the team’s leading scorer in qualifying. He’s also the USA’s assigned penalty taker and if the States are going to win and advance, as oddsmakers favour them to, there’s a good chance he is going to be involved in at least one of the goals they’ll need.
That makes him a good bet to contribute a goal or an assist here at odds that suggest a bit less than a 50% chance.
The Nashville centre back has played full 90 in both World Cup matches so far, attempting 72 passes in the first match vs England and 90 vs Wales.
I expect USA to see a lot of the ball tonight. Iran had 22.7% possession vs England and 38.5% vs Wales. In those matches, the two centre backs for England racked up a combined 191 passes, the back three for Wales attempted a combined 196 (they moved to a back four on the 57th minute).
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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