By MARK LORENZANA
American Soccer superstar Christian Pulisic literally sacrificed his body to send the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) into the knockout round of this year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar. With his team needing a goal, Pulisic scored in the 38th minute against Iran, but collided with the goalkeeper and ended up in the hospital for an abdominal scan.
Pulisic could be seen writhing in pain on the field after scoring the lone goal for the United States, which resulted in an early exit for Iran on Tuesday, Nov. 29.
“He would do anything for this team in order for us to win,” U.S. captain Tyler Adams said after the match.
For his part, USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter said that the play where Pulisic scored — but got hurt in the process — was something that they have always practiced, sans the getting-hurt part, of course.
“The goal was something we’ve been talking about for a while. The guys executed this perfectly.”
Not that perfectly, though, as the U.S. team is in danger of losing its best player for the next match. It is still unclear, however, if Pulisic — who also plays as an attacking midfielder for Premier League club Chelsea — will officially miss the United States’ knockout game against the Netherlands, which on the same game day eliminated host team Qatar, 2-0.
The play in question saw Pulisic hit the ball lightly with his right foot as he successfully positioned himself between two Iranian defenders. It was a beautiful goal, but Pulisic’s momentum sent him crashing violently into Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, whose knee appeared to connect with the American’s abdomen.
The United States needed a win against Iran to barge into the round of 16 after settling for back-to-back draws in the group stage. In those pair of draws, the USMNT managed to score only one goal. But Berhalter had a simple explanation for the drought of goals: Finishing against world-class opponents in Group B — and in the World Cup in general — is easier said than done.
The USMNT’s fellow group mates Wales and England figured in their own knockout game — dubbed the “Battle of Britain” — which England won in lopsided fashion, 3-0. For England to advance, they needed to avoid losing by four goals, and at halftime the match was still tied, 0-0. The second half saw England score three goals, however, which effectively booted out Wales from the tournament.
Meanwhile, in Group A, Senegal sent Ecuador home with a 2-1 victory against the South American team.