DOHA, Qatar – Ever since April 1, when Group B of the 2022 World Cup took shape in a glitzy draw here in Doha, there has been a tentative guess, derived from history and outline of this group, that four points might be enough.
The United States could, it was thought, draw with Wales, lose honorably to England, beat Iran and advance on goal differential. Similar results, after all, have taken the United States men’s national team to the knockout stages of the World Cup in the past. Win-lose-draw was the formula in 2002 and 2014.
But Spectacular victory for Iran over Wales on Fridayseven hours before the Americans kick off against England, changed the calculation.
In fact, a draw probably wouldn’t matter.
USMNT, at 10 p.m. in Al Khor, Qatar (2 p.m. ET, Fox/Telemundo), should be aiming for victory.
Two stoppage time goals took Iran to three points and left Wales trailing by one point. And they meant that unless the United States beat England on Friday, they would have to beat Iran next Tuesday on the final day of the group to qualify.
The only scenario in which a draw with England is useful is when Wales stun England in the final. In this unlikely scenario, a draw tonight would be the difference between USA top of the group and being crushed.
It’s unclear if the USMNT could change its approach based on Iran’s victory, which ended just hours before the American players boarded a bus at their team’s hotel. and only make the one-hour journey to Al Bayt Stadium. Months of planning have already gone into the last days of training. And according to a USMNT player last week, a starting lineup is often drawn no later than the morning of the game.
There were immediate suggestions among fans and pundits that the United States should rest key players against England, to maximize freshness for a game to win against a tough Iranian side. But that’s unlikely – the US lineup is expected here to be largely unchanged.
What is clear, however, is that Iran’s win should change the way head coach Gregg Berhalter handles the game, especially in the second half. If the match is drawn, there is nothing to protect, no reason to play it safe.
So, in summary: the game against England is not a win or a loss, because the worst case scenario is that the game against Iran is a win or a loss. But that’s how the USMNT should treat it.
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