Pulisic strike earns USA a place in the World Cup last 16

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Christian Pulisic scores for the US [Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters]

Christian Pulisic scored as the USA beat Iran 1-0 to advance to the knockout stage, where they will face the Netherlands.

The USA beat Iran 1-0 to reach the last 16 of the World Cup in an entertaining Group B decider on Tuesday, thanks to a strike from Christian Pulisic.

The United States’s talisman converted in the 38th minute, bundling home from Sergino Dest’s inviting header.

But he was unable to celebrate the goal, injuring himself when he crashed into the Iranian goalkeeper as he scored.

He required medical treatment from US staff and although he did resume playing, he was replaced at the start of the second half.

After the game, Pulisic was taken to hospital, but coach Gregg Berhalter had no immediate update on his injury.

The Americans finished second in Group B with five points, two behind England, and will play the Netherlands on Saturday with the chance to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002.

For Iran, the defeat meant elimination, as they finished third in the group with three points.

“The dream is over with this result,” Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said. “The US started the game much better than us, more quick with better control of the game.”

There was heightened tension surrounding the match because of the strained relations between the governments of the US and Iran. The Iranians had famously upset the US 2-1 in the 1998 tournament in France, eliminating the Americans.

Christian Pulisic being led off the field after the USA's first goal.
Christian Pulisic being led off the field after the USA’s first goal [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Raucous Iranian fans with horns and drums in the crowd of 42,127 filled the lower bowl behind one goal at Al Thumama Stadium and were far louder than the red-white-and-blue US supporters at the other end and behind the Americans’ bench.

Needing a victory to proceed to the next round, the Americans started brightly, but they did not break through until Pulisic came up with the big moment.

Weston McKennie lofted a pass from just past the centre circle to Sergino Dest at the edge of the six-yard box. Dest headed the ball in front of the net on a bounce and Pulisic turned his body to knock the ball into the net for his first World Cup goal.

With England ahead of Wales in the other Group B match, Iran knew they needed only a draw to advance and finally had a first shot at goalkeeper Matt Turner when Saman Ghoddos put a header over the crossbar in the 52nd minute.

Morteza Pouraliganji met a free-kick with a diving header that went just wide deep in stoppage time.

Mehdi Taremi appealed for a penalty in the closing stages as he went down with Cameron Carter-Vickers trying to stop him; his teammates surrounded the referee, but their protests were waved away as Iran ultimately failed to register a shot on target.

“I hope that our fans and our people in Iran forgive us. I am just sorry,” Taremi said.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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