United States head coach Gregg Berhalter. © Reuters-USA TODAY Sports
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The United States qualified for the 2022 Fifa World Cup after finishing third in their qualification group. USA fans will be looking forward to their games in Qatar even more after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which broke their streak of reaching six World Cup Finals in a row.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter will know that he has a young roster lacking in international tournament experience – the side only just scraped automatic qualification due to their superior goal difference to Costa Rica. With an average roster age of 24 during the 2022 World Cup qualification stage, it was a priority for Berhalter to give the young soccer players plenty of minutes so they can gain individual experience and the team can start to gel and play coherently as the coach looks to form a side that will challenge for future tournaments.
The USA’s current group of players feature fast forwards that can hit teams on the counter attack such as Christian Pulisic and the skillful Timothy Weah. In the USA’s World Cup games, the side will be told to play with confidence and show no fear as they will not have heavy pressure placed on them due to the young team that for many will be playing in their first World Cup.
READ MORE: USA vs Wales preview
READ MORE: USA vs England preview
USA Player to watch: Christian Pulisic
The USA’s standout player leading the team’s next generation of stars is Chelsea's Christian Pulisic. The 23-year-old, while still young, has the most top-level experience compared to his international team mates. Pulisic has won the Champions League with his club side, scoring important goals through the knockout rounds, and it's this experience that will help the USA during their campaign in World Cup group B.
Picking up points against Iran and Wales will be vital for USA if they are to progress from the group, the USA and England has interesting World Cup together with the Americans winning 1-0 in the group stage at the 1950 World Cup which is labelled ‘the greatest World Cup shock of all time’. However, the current England side has played together for the last two international tournaments and will be difficult to beat, something USA manager Berhalter will be looking to replicate for his side.
Pulisic was a key player in the team’s difficult qualifiers scoring five goals, meaning his tally for his country stands at 22 goals. We can see him being a major component in the USA’s 2022 World Cup campaign, in a game that is winnable for USA we can see Pulisic finding the back of the net.
Iran will head to their sixth World Cup this winter after impressing in their qualifying group. The Asian country beat South Korea and the United Arab Emirates to gain automatic passage to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. This will be Iran’s third consecutive tournament in a row with group stage exits in the previous two. In fact, Iran have never qualified for the knock-out rounds of a World Cup, a fate they will want to change.
Their main threat comes from the offense which is seriously underrated, and they have a handful or attackers who know how to find the back of the net. Mehdi Taremi, Sardar Azmoun and former Brighton player Alireza Jahanbakhsh all look likely to lead the line for Iran at the World Cup suggesting we should be in for an entertaining match with goals and chances.
Iran’s defense has not let them down either with a strong showing during the qualification process. The side only conceded four goals in 10 games, keeping a clean sheet in seven of those. At recent World Cups, Iran has been drawn in unfavorable groups but the 2022 World Cup Group B is less difficult on paper for the Iranians. We should expect to see the side play to their strengths in attack and display a positive style of soccer.
Iran player to watch: Mehdi Taremi
A player to keep an eye out for is Mehdi Taremi who has been tearing up the Portuguese Primeira Division over the last three years. During his debut season in Portugal, the centre forward scored 18 goals for Rio Ave, catching the attention of the league’s top club: Porto. In Taremi’s first season there, he netted 16 goals as Porto finished the campaign runners up in the league. In the 2020/21 season, Taremi and Porto upped their game as they won the league – the striker scored 20 goals in the process, coming second in the top goal scorer table.
For his country, Taremi has netted 27 goals including eight goals during Iran’s 2022 World Cup qualification process and helping the team book their flight to Qatar. He has proven a clinical finisher, scoring 15+ goals per season for the last three years and we can see the 29-year-old being a danger to USA’s goal. With Iran’s attack-minded team, chances will fall his way and we wouldn’t be surprised if he sticks one of them away.