USA beat Iran, leading them to World Cup knockout stage

The United States men's national team advanced to the knockout stage of the 2022 World Cup, beating Iran 1-0 at Al Thumama Stadium on Tuesday to finish second in Group B and book a last-16 matchup against the Netherlands.

Christian Pulisic turned in Sergino Dest's headed cross in the 38th minute to get the crucial breakthrough, putting his body on the line and suffering an abdominal injury after subsequently clashing with Iran's goalkeeper.

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The injury led Pulisic to be replaced at half-time by Brenden Aaronson, but for the US, it was surely a price worth paying as Gregg Berhalter's side hung on to their lead in the second half to advance at the expense of Iran.

England, who beat Wales 3-0 in the other final-round group game, top the group on seven points, ahead of the US on five. Iran, who would have advanced with a tie, finish third ahead of bottom-placed Wales.

The US will now take on Group A winners Netherlands on Saturday as they look to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002.

Christian Pulisic scores the United States' vital winning goal against Iran.
Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

"In the first half we showed what we can do, soccer wise," Berhalter told FOX. "We had a really good first half. Second half we showed what we could do determination wise.

"The guys grinded, gave every single ounce and we are undefeated going into the next round."

While a place in the knockout rounds was at stake, the buildup to the game had been dominated by off-the-field news, including US Soccer's decision to scrub the Islamic Republic symbol from Iran's flag in a prematch tweet on Sunday. US Soccer later restored the image of Iran's flag in its entirety on social media, but not before drawing the ire of the country's government and its federation.

Iran's government reacted by accusing US Soccer of removing the name of God from their national flag, and the Iranian football federation said its country will lodge a complaint with FIFA over the scrubbing of the Islamic Republic emblem.

The tension was evident on the field in the first half as the US probed for the goal they needed against an Iran side increasingly happy to pack men behind the ball.

But, while Pulsiic and Josh Sargent failed to make the most of early headed opportunities, there was impressive composure from a US lineup that -- at an average 24 years, 321 days -- was the youngest to have begun a game at this World Cup.

It took a moment of bravery from the US's biggest star to break the deadlock. Weston McKennie's cross-field pass was perfectly weighted for Dest to head across the face of goal, and Pulisic crashed the ball into the net from close range at great personal expense.

While Pulsiic played on until half-time after lengthy treatment in the goalmouth, he was withdrawn at the interval.

Before that, the US briefly thought they had extended their lead when Tim Weah calmly slotted home from McKennie's through ball. However, the assistant referee's flag was immediately raised for the tightest of offside calls.

Sargent had another chance to give the US some breathing room early in the second half before himself succumbing to injury after a tough tackle and being replaced by Haji Wright.

But as the second half wore on, the US began clinging increasingly anxiously to their lead.

Saman Ghoddos fired just wide with Matt Turner unmoved in the US goal, and the Americans then had to survive two frantic appeals for penalties in the closing stages before the referee finally blew the full-time whistle after more than nine minutes of stoppage time.