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Iran, US to Clash Again at World Cup

Iran, US to Clash Again at World Cup

Saturday, 2 April, 2022 - 09:30
Soccer Football - World Cup - Final Draw - Doha Exhibition & Convention Center, Doha, Qatar - April 1, 2022 Draw assistant Lothar Matthaus draws Germany as Cafu and Adel Ahmed MalAllah look on REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

After more than 40 years of sour relations and months of struggle to restore a nuclear deal, the United States and Iran are now set to meet on the soccer field at this year's World Cup, having landed together in Group B in Friday's draw.

The Iran and US coaches sidestepped the political fracas, saying they were focused on the tournament and its ability to bring people together. England and the winners of a European playoff - Ukraine, Scotland or Wales - complete the group.

The icy US-Iran relationship, characterized by diplomatic and even military confrontation in past years, has the potential to thaw somewhat by the time they play in Qatar on Nov. 21. It could also get worse.

Despite the serious nature of the US-Iran rivalry, Washington's diplomatic Twitter sphere erupted with jokes after the World Cup draw held at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center in Qatar on Friday.

Ali Vaez, Crisis Group’s Iran Project Director, joked that the US government had set up a group to see what would happen in case of a drawn match.

"A US interagency working group has been set up in advance of the Iran game to determine if their offence can be deterred, the scope of follow-on negotiations in the event of a draw, and whether exchanging jerseys violates sanctions," Vaez wrote.

The hope will be for a repeat of the tranquility around the 1998 encounter in France where the Iranians brought white roses for their American opponents before winning 2-1.

“It's 24 years later from 1998 and further removed from the 70s and both nations have evolved tremendously since then,” US coach Gregg Berhalter said. “For us, it's a soccer game.”

Iran’s Croatian coach, Dragan Skocic, said: “I focus on football. I think this is the best way in sport and also we should give people the chance to make the situation better.”

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