In the Tehran neighborhood of Eram, a video posted on Twitter showed people chanting “America, America,” and a man narrating a video in another neighborhood said that although it was 1 a.m., the soccer-loving people of Iran were so fed up with the Islamic Republic that they were cheering for its opponent.
Videos also showed people dancing in the streets in Marivan and Sanandaj, cities with large ethnic populations of Kurds in the home province of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old whose death in the custody of the morality police sparked the protests calling for an end to clerical rule.
At the tournament, the pressure may have proved too much for the Iranian squad. Unlike the United States, Iran has never advanced out of the first round at a World Cup. Its team, long a symbol of unity in a persistently divided nation, had needed only a tie to advance. Its tournament had been a roller-coaster: a thumping at the hands of England, a last-minute win over Wales, and a showdown against the young American team.
The Iranian players held their own against the Americans’ repeated thrusts and, after Pulisic’s goal separated the teams, pushed repeatedly for the tying goal they knew would carry them through.
The math on Tuesday was not a secret: England led the group going into its final two games. When England took a lead over Wales in the other game across the city, moving into position to win the group, both Iran and the United States narrowed their eyes and set their sights on second place, and the group’s other place in the knockout rounds.
By then the Americans were ahead. The goal had come off a sequence of incisive passes in the 38th minute: midfielder Weston McKennie picking out a sprinting Sergiño Dest racing up the right wing, and Dest delivering a perfect skidding cross to Pulisic, who had read what was coming and come charging at the goal. He arrived just in time to redirect the ball past the goalkeeper, Alireza Beiranvand, but their forceful collision left Pulisic lying in the net for several minutes.
Initially requiring help just to stand, and move, Pulisic eventually returned to the field for the final few minutes of the first half. But he didn’t return for the second half — team officials said he was headed to the hospital for scans on his injured midsection — and was replaced by one of the team’s young talents, Brenden Aaronson.