Iran 0-1 USA: Christian Pulisic seals World Cup knockouts spot
Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

A 38th minute Christian Pulisic goal was enough to give USA a narrow win and ensure their passage into the Round of 16 of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

It was a dominant first half performance from the eventual match winners. Iran were unable to muster up a single attempt at goal during the first 45 minutes and should have considered themselves fortunate to not be out of the game, going into the interval.

Following the restart, Iran's performance improved marginally. However, they were unable to put their opponents under a spell of significant pressure, throughout the second period. A few half-chances from Saman Ghoddos were not enough to earn, or warrant, a result for his team.

With this first win of their campaign, USA have earned second place in the group and a meeting with Netherlands, to open the Round of 16 fixture list, on Saturday.

A dominant win from England over Wales, in the parallel Group B fixture, ensured top spot in the quartet for the Three Lions. They will face Senegal in the Round of 16, on Sunday.

Story of the match

Alireza Beiranvand was deemed able to return to action, after he suffered a nasty injury early on in Iran's opener of their campaign. The goalkeeper's introduction was the only change in Carlos Quieroz's team.

For Gregg Berhalter's USA side, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Josh Sargent came into the 11, in the places of Walker Zimmerman and Haji Wright.

A fairly even first ten minutes was rounded off by the first attempt at goal of the game - a miscued volley from Yunus Musah. The midfielder then picked out Christian Pulisic with an accurate cross from deep, just a few minutes later - the Chelsea winger's header lacked the power to trouble Beiranvand.

Unlike for Iran, a draw would have certainly not done USA any potential good, in the race for Group B qualification. As the half went on, the Stars and Stripes were the team which looked to take the game by the scruff of its' neck.

Beiranvand was forced into action, again, as he parried a threatening low cross from Sergino Dest. Iran were able to respond, as Tim Ream was forced into preventing a potentially dangerous situation within his team's box, arising from Mehdi Taremi's intended pass to Sardar Azmoun.

However, as the game passed the half-hour mark, Iran were still unable to produce an attempt at goal. Following Timothy Weah's effort, which he would have been disappointed to have blazed over the bar, the shot tally read 6-0 - fairly representing the balance of the game.

From that point, it did not take long for USA to produce a well-deserved goal.

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Dest's run down the right wing was well spotted - the full-back was picked out by a precise pass, deep from the central area - a smart header back across goal left Iran at the mercy of the oncoming Pulisic. The winger was able to get to the ball first, redirecting it into the back of the net. A nasty collision with the goalkeeper, following the contact with the ball, left Pulisic needing treatment for a few minutes; he went on to be replaced at half-time.

Even after the opener, which significantly altered Iran's requirements for the rest of the game, they were unable to impose themselves on the impressive USA, in any way. 

A fluid bit of link-up play from Josh Sargent and Weah was just about cut out, with the latter almost receiving a clear-cut chance to double his team's lead.

Moments before the break, Weah had the ball in the back of the net, but a marginally close offside decision went Iran's way. It was an immensely dominant first 45 minutes from USA and a hugely underwhelming one from a very disappointing Iran team.

Brentford's Ghoddos and Leeds' Brendan Aaronson were introduced during the break, with Iran needing a significant improvement from their first half slumber.

The early signs for that happening were not promising - a through ball from the freshly introduced Aaronson led to Sargent having an early attempt at goal, which was fairly comfortably saved. 

However, Ghoddos was able to provide a spark for his team; his header, a few minutes after the restart, was Iran's first attempt at goal. Taremi powerfully drove into the USA box soon after - Matt Turner was able to halt the forward's progress.

Even though Queiroz's team were able to see more of the ball, chances were fairly limited. After 64 minutes, Ghoddos, again, had a sight of goal. His first-time effort beat Turner, but was set out too far wide to curl inside of the far post. There was a foul by an Iranian player on an American defender, just prior to Ghoddos' shot, meaning the goal would have been disallowed, had he found the target.

An ambitious, long-range effort from Saeid Ezatolahi momentarily seemed like it may lead to a spectacular equaliser. However, the ball sailed over Turner's crossbar. Approaching the final 20 minutes of the game, it seemed that Iran may be building up some momentum, in their search for a crucial goal.

However, following the relative danger stirred by the Ghoddos effort, Iran were unable to cause their opponents too much trouble. It took until the 81st minute, for USA to have a half-nervy moment - a cross from the right side fizzed across the box, but Ali Karimi failed to get away an attempt on goal, with the ball striking the substitute on the body and popping up for Turner to claim.

Entering the nine minutes of additional time, USA seemed very capable of and likely to hold on to their narrow win. 

Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

The only moment of note, during added time, was a low header from Morteza Pouraliganji, which rolled just wide of Turner's near post. Had the ball snuck into the back of the net, it would have been a very harsh outcome to what had been a confident USA performance. 

A late penalty appeal was also rightly denied by referee, Antonio Mateu Lahoz.

Moments after the brief VAR check, Berhalter's team sealed a deserved spot in the Round of 16, with a narrow 1-0 win - completing an unbeaten group stage campaign.

Player of the match - Cameron Carter-Vickers

Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi Images via Getty Images
Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Had Pulisic been able to stay on the pitch for the second period and contribute more to his team's win, he may have been able to claim this prize. 

Instead, a solid defensive performance from all of USA's team was led by a brilliant performance from the Celtic man, Carter-Vickers.

The centre-back was a composed presence, on and off the ball and played a crucial part in his team's two consecutive clean sheets, to round off the group stage and seal their place in the knockout rounds.