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World Cup soccer: USA 'embraces' pressure of must-win match vs. Iran

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United States Men's National Team soccer star Christian Pulisic (L) controls the ball against England at the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Friday at Al Bayt Stadium in Doha, Qatar. Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI
United States Men's National Team soccer star Christian Pulisic (L) controls the ball against England at the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Friday at Al Bayt Stadium in Doha, Qatar. Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 29 (UPI) -- The United States Men's National Team is "embracing" the pressure ahead of its must-win match against Iran at the 2022 World Cup. The Americans and Iranians will meet in the Group B finale Tuesday in Doha, Qatar.

The match will air at 2 p.m. EST on Fox. Qatar is eight hours ahead of U.S. time zones, which means players will begin play about 10 p.m. local time.

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The Americans drew twice to earn two points through two matches and sit in third place in Group B. But a draw with Iran won't be enough at Al Thumama Stadium.

The Americans didn't qualify for the last World Cup. In fact, the advanced past the Round of 16 just once since 1930 and never reached the World Cup title game.

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They only scored one goal through two matches at Qatar 2022.

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"It is a unique situation and adds a little bit of pressure, but for us, every single game is pressure," American defender Tim Ream told reporters Monday.

"We have to go out and just embrace the moment."

The Americans held a 1-0 lead in their tournament opener, but allowed a late Wales rally and pocketed just one point from the draw instead of the three given for a win. They then failed to score against England in their second match for another point.

The Top 2 teams from each group advance to the knockout stage. England leads the group with four points and can secure its spot in the Round of 16 with a win or draw Tuesday in their group stage finale against Wales.

Wales can advance with a win over England and a draw between the Americans and Iranians.

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Iran went 1-1 to start the World Cup and can advance with a win. Iran also can advance with a draw and if Wales doesn't beat England.

Despite a lack of offensive fireworks and the desperate need of a score, the Americans believe they don't need to make major adjustments to their game plan to find the net against Iran.

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"I don't think we have to take those risks right away," American defender Walker Zimmerman said Monday. "We have had moments of transition in this tournament and promising attacks as we're going forward.

"I don't expect any of that to change with this game plan...but we are coming out aggressive and trying to get it on the front foot to get some chances."

Besides a lack of goals, potential distraction has crept into the American locker room in recent days. Ream, Zimmerman, captain Tyler Adams and manager Gregg Berhalter were bombarded with questions regarding an off-the-field controversy at recent news conferences.

The U.S. Soccer Federation posted a graphic of the Iranian flag, with the Islamic Republic emblem removed, Sunday on Twitter. The Federation later said it made the move to show support for the women of Iran, amid anti-government protests in the country spurred by the government's oppression of women.

Tasnim News Agency, an organization affiliated with Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps., then called for the United States to be "kicked out" of the World Cup for its social media post because it allegedly breached the FIFA charter.

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The Federation has since updated the flag to again include the Islamic Republic emblem. Berhalter told reporters Monday that the players, coaches and staff did not know about the altered flag being posted.

"Our focus is on this match," Berhalter said. "I don't want to sound aloof or not caring by saying that, but the guys have worked really hard for the last four years. We have 72 hours between England and Iran [games], and we really are just focused on getting past Iran and getting into this knockout stage of the tournament.

"Of course, our thoughts are with the Iranian people, the whole country, the whole team, and everyone, but our focus is on this match."

The Americans are favored to beat Iran in the match, which features a 2.5 over/under for goals scored.

"This game is going to be about us and what we need to do and have to do to advance and win," Ream said. "Being aware of their compact shape and counter attacking will be key. If we do that, and finish our opportunities, we are going to be alright."

"I'm not worried about what comes after, whether it's good, bad or indifferent."

The United Statees is favored over Iran, and England, a Top 5 favorite to win the World Cup, is favored to beat Wales. That match also will start at 2 p.m. and air on Fox Sports 1.

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The runner-up team from Group B will face the winning team from Group A in a Round of 16 match Saturday in Al Rayyan. The winning team from Group B will face the runner-up from Group A in the Round of 16 Sunday in Al Khor.

The Netherlands and Ecuador are tied atop Group A. Group A also consists of Senegal and Qatar. The host county was the first team eliminated from the tournament.

Tuesday (all times EST)

Ecuador vs. Senegal at 10 a.m. on Fox

Netherlands vs. Qatar at 10 a.m. on FS1

Iran vs. USA at 2 p.m. on Fox

Wales vs. England at 2 p.m. on FS1

Wednesday

Tunisia vs. France at 10 a.m. on Fox

Australia vs. Denmark at 10 a.m. on FS1

Poland vs. Argentina at 2 p.m. on Fox

Saudi Arabia vs. Mexico at 2 p.m. on FS1

Thursday

Croatia vs. Belgium at 10 a.m. on Fox

Canada vs. Morocco at 10 a.m. on FS1

Japan vs. Spain at 2 p.m. on Fox

Costa Rica vs. Germany at 2 p.m. on FS1

Friday

South Korea vs. Portugal at 10 a.m. on Fox

Ghana vs. Uruguay at 10 a.m. on FS1

Serbia vs. Switzerland at 2 p.m. on FS1

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Cameroon vs. Brazil at 2 p.m. on Fox

Saturday

Round of 16 at 10 a.m. on Fox

Round of 16 at 2 p.m. on Fox

Sunday

Round of 16 at 10 a.m. on FS1

Round of 16 at 2 p.m. on FS1

Monday

Round of 16 at 10 a.m. on Fox

Round of 16 at 2 p.m. on Fox

Dec. 6

Round of 16 at 10 a.m. on Fox

Round of 16 at 2 p.m. on Fox

Dec. 9

Quarterfinals at 10 a.m. on Fox

Quarterfinals at 2 p.m. on Fox

Dec. 10

Quarterfinals at 10 a.m. on Fox

Quarterfinals at 2 p.m. on Fox

Dec. 13

Semifinals at 2 p.m. on Fox

Dec. 14

Semifinals at 2 p.m. on Fox at 2 p.m. on Fox

Dec. 17

Third-place game at 10 a.m. on Fox

Dec. 18

Final at 10 a.m. on Fox

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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