If there wasn’t already enough motivation behind a big-time clash between the USMNT and Iran on Tuesday at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the Americans added fuel to the fire when their social media team removed the central image of Iran’s flags. While they’ve apologized since, the Iranians were already quick to file a complaint to FIFA about the incident.
On Monday, US boss Gregg Berhalter was asked if the team had anything to do with it. Via ESPN:
“The players and the staff knew nothing about what was being posted,” Berhalter said. “Sometimes things are out of our control. We believe that it’s going to be a match that the result will depend on who puts more effort in, and who executes better on the field. And we’re not focused on those outside things. All we can do on our behalf is apologize on behalf of the players and the staff, but it’s not something that we are part of.
“We had no idea about what USMNT Soccer put out — the staff, the players had no idea. And for us, our focus is on this match. I don’t want to sound aloof or not caring by saying that, but the guys that worked really hard for the last four years, we have 72 hours between England and Iran, and we really are just focused on how to get past Iran and [how] we can go to this knockout stage of the tournament.
“Of course, our thoughts are with the Iranian people … the whole country, the whole team, everyone, but our focus is on this match.”
Not surprising. It’s not like the social media team asked the players for their input. It was likely an internal decision from US soccer.
There’s serious controversy back in Iran right now after a 22-year-old woman was killed while in the custody by police in the country. The team even refused to sing the national anthem in their first game against England and were quickly warned by the Iranian government to not do that again, or else there’d be consequences. The squad mouthed the words prior to the Wales match.
For the USMNT, this is a win-or-go-home scenario. Berhalter’s group needs the full three points in order to progress to the knockout stages after settling for two draws thus far. But as Berhalter said, there will be nothing but respect for the opposition, who they know are going through a difficult situation back in the homeland.