AL RAYYAN, Qatar – In case you haven’t heard, there’s a great game for him. United States men’s team arrives Tuesday.
Indeed, it’s a great game, the biggest American men’s soccer has had for at least eight years, the biggest it will be for another four. It is a game of simplicity, where a victory is gold and nothing else against. Iran will serve (2 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App).
And yet, at Al Thumama Stadium, there will be a game within a game, one that will play a role of its own. It’s a game designed specifically to knock an opponent off their game, which is why they call what they do: cunning.
The team Gregg Berhalter’s USA must beat to get out of Group B and into the Round of 16, Iran is a master of the game.
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Carlos Queiroz’s squad is a very quality team, good enough to be ranked 20th in the world, compared to the USMNT 16, and did an excellent job beating Welsh 2-0 on Friday. It’s also an experienced group full of veteran players who are highly skilled in the mysterious arts of cajoling the refs and gaining whatever advantage is available.
«They worked the referee,» former USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann told the BBC after Iran’s impressive victory, which salvaged their campaign after a 6-2 loss to England in your opener. «They work as linesman and fourth official, they are constantly in his ear. There were many incidents that we didn’t see. This is their (football) culture, they take you out of your game.»
Let’s face it here, it’s not «their» football culture. Yes, the Iranians play to the limit of the rules and sometimes go overboard, and they are far from the only ones to do so. Many teams in the World Cup adopt these methods, especially when their backs are against the wall.
The US team has won the hearts of its home audience, but it would be blind to fool ourselves into thinking that there aren’t times when a bit of exaggeration, or a waste of time to protect a lead, or a reprimand with the referee, also works. become part of the agenda.
These are professional gamers with a fierce competitive streak. That’s how it is.
«Every team in the World Cup, everyone has a different type of style and different ways of playing, and that’s the nature of this sport,» the US defenseman said. tim rows said. «That’s the nature of our game.
«It’s not something you can over-prepare for. It’s an understanding that it’s going to happen. We just have to stay calm and not let it bother you.»
There is virtually no limit to the things teams can do to slow down a game, to disrupt their opponent, to try to gain an advantage, whether through fair means or through fouls.
The Iran bench was extremely vociferous and lively in putting pressure on the referee during their match against Wales, although that is not unusual for this tournament.
It’s worth remembering that Iran only needs a draw to advance. Anything that affects the rhythm of the game, or bites into a clock, will be like gold dust for them.
This is not like the life and death situation the US faced. Algeria in 2010, when the Algerians also needed a win and sent players forward in search of goal, opening up just enough space for Landon Donovan’s famous getaway.
The United States has regularly faced difficult situations. The CONCACAF region is known as one of the toughest in world soccer, where away matches present a particularly difficult challenge.
«I don’t think you can do anything different than normal – you’re up against cunning and different styles in CONCACAF all the time,» added Ream.
As for Klinsmann’s comments, they were quickly and angrily noted by Iran’s Portuguese head coach Queiroz.
«No matter how much I may respect what you did on the pitch, those comments about Iran’s culture, the Iran team and my players are a disgrace to football,» Queiroz tweeted to Klinsmann.
Klinsmann responded by promising to contact Queiroz to try to smooth things over.
Ream is part of a strong defensive lineup that will need to use his own brand of smart physique on Tuesday, as falling behind would dramatically increase the difficulty level.
Most of the current USMNT players were not born or old enough to remember the last time the US last of the 32 teams.
Yet everyone remembers the 2010 and 2014 campaigns, when there was still work to be done in the final round of group action, and the US found its way.
Everything will be decided by who is better, tougher and more skilled in the night and the chance to become a hero awaits you.
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But the way Americans maintain their composure, if faced with some of soccer’s tricky arts, can also have a seismic impact on whether the campaign ends in disappointment or continues with all chances remaining.