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Pulisic leads USA past Iran, into World Cup knockout stage

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American Christian Pulisic (10) scores against Iran at the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Tuesday at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar. Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI
American Christian Pulisic (10) scores against Iran at the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Tuesday at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar. Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Christian Pulisic glided through defenders, sliced a shot into the net and collapsed in pain, dramatically lifting the Americans past Iran and clinching a World Cup knockout stage berth Tuesday in Doha, Qatar.

Pulisic's painful -- yet prolific -- first-half score proved to be the only one needed in the must-win triumph at Thumama Stadium. The Americans clinched the runner-up spot out of Group B and will join first-place England in the Round of 16.

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"I think, in the first half, we showed what we could do soccer-wise," U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter told Fox. "In the second half, we showed what we could do determination-wise."

The Americans, who didn't qualify for the last World Cup in 2018, also made the Round of 16 in 2010 and 2014. They've only advanced past the Round of 16 once since 1930.

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Iran, which could have advanced with a draw, failed to produce a shot in the first half, while the Americans unleashed nine attempts over the first 45 minutes.

Pulisic broke the deadlock with his scintillating score in the 38th minute.

Midfielder Weston McKennie sparked the score with a chipped cross into the right side of the box. Defender Sergino Dest hovered into the area and headed a cross in front of the net.

Pulisic came sprinting into the area, split defenders Ramin Rezaeian and Majid Hosseiniand and booted his point-blank range attempt past Iranian goalie Alireza Beiranvand.

Beiranvand collided with Pulisic just after the shot. Pulisic writhed in pain and stayed on the ground until being looked at by trainers. U.S. Soccer said he sustained an abdominal injury during the play and would not return for the second half.

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Fellow forward Tim Weah nearly doubled the lead for the Americans when he found the net in first-half stoppage time. That goal was then taken off the scoreboard due to a late off-side call.

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Iran continued to threaten with several shots, a free kick and a corner kick down the stretch, but could not get by the determined American defense and goalie Matt Turner.

"Honestly, we wanted to control our own destiny because we knew we could handle it," McKennie said. "We are a really close group of guys. We are brothers.

"We love this type of stuff. We love the pressure. We love the excitement. We are a young team. We have our own style and our own swagger. ... We got it done and we are excited to still be here."

The Americans will face Group A winner Netherlands in the Round of 16 at 10 a.m. EST Saturday at Khalifa International Stadium in Al Rayyan.

England, which won Group B, will battle Group A runner-up Senegal in another Round of 16 match Sunday in Al Khor.

The winner of the U.S.-Netherlands match will face the winner of a Round of 16 match between the Group C champion and Group D runner-up in the quarterfinals.

Poland currently leads Group C, but will face second-place Argentina on Wednesday in Doha. France leads Group D, ahead of second-place Australia.

The World Cup semifinals will be Dec. 13 and 14. The title game will be Dec. 18.

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Fans cheer on World Cup contenders in Qatar

A Morocco fan supports his team while wearing a costume during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Semi-Final match between Morocco and France at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, on December 14, 2022. Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI | License Photo

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