The World Cup group B game between Iran and the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) probably ranks among the most talked about games in the competition so far.
It was a truly high-stakes match with the reward of a place in the knockout rounds of the competition at the end of the tunnel.
However, there was quite a lot of controversy circling around the fixture before it was even played. The drama began with the pre-match press conferences from before the match took place.
In the USMNT’s press conference, midfielder Tyler Adams was hassled by an Iranian journalist about mispronouncing his country’s name and posed controversial political questions which he had little expertise about.
To his credit, the Leeds United midfielder handled the tough questions like a pro – leaving fans from all over really impressed.
Because of the high stakes of a place in the Round of 16 and the tensions involving some fans of the two nations, this was a group game that almost felt like a final in itself.
So when the two teams met at the Al Thumama stadium on Monday, millions of eyes poured on the pressure on the players involved. The game started in cagey fashion, with neither side wanting to give an inch to their opposition rivals.
However, the experience and superior quality in the USMNT side proved to be the deciding factor in the end.
It was their captain Christian Pulisic who finished a well-created move in the 38th minute to give his side the lead, even though it needed him sacrificing his own well-being – as he was stretched off after being barged down by Iran defenders in the process.
But that one piece of brilliance was all it took for the USMNT to come away as winners.
Iran piled the pressure in the second half and had a late penalty call turned down, coming away from the game looking like valiant losers than sore losers.
Of course, the reality of being eliminated from the World Cup despite playing so well and even defeating Wales really hurt some Iran players. The Iran right-back Ramin Rezaeian, who scored a great goal in his side’s win over Wales, was overcome with emotions.
He just couldn’t handle himself from completely breaking down on the pitch after full-time.
Rezaeian started crying uncontrollably on the pitch and even some of his teammates couldn’t get him to regain his composure as the players exchanged some handshakes after the game.
In the end, USMNT and Everton defender Antonee Robinson showcased a lot of class in consoling his opposition player.
He approached the Iranian defender and gave him a warm embrace, giving him a shoulder to cry on in an emotional moment that has moved a lot of fans.
Robinson also spoke some reassuring words to him and probably told him to be proud of what he and his teammates had done at the World Cup.
This moment between the two players of the teams branded as ‘rivals’ before the match shows that the rivalry is not among those on the pitch – but only in the minds of those far away.
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