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US defeat Iran in World Cup match overshadowed by political tension

US defeat Iran in World Cup match overshadowed by political tension
November 30, 2022 Reuters

DOHA (Reuters) - The United States triumphed on the pitch over longtime political adversary Iran in a World Cup match overshadowed by protests raging in Iran and laced with decades of tension between the two countries.

The contest in Qatar between the two nations, which severed diplomatic ties more than 40 years ago, took place under increased security to prevent a flare-up over the anti-government protests across Iran since the death in custody of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16.

In sporting terms, the 1-0 win for the United States after a first half goal by Christian Pulisic means they progress to the knockout stage, while Iran are out of the competition.

Despite qualification out of Group B being on the line and the geopolitical background, the match was mostly cleanly played with no hard fouls or altercations between the players. When the nations last played in the 1998 World Cup, Iran won 2-1.

STADIUM PROTESTS

Extra security personnel, some mounted on horseback, patrolled outside the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha before the match while guards at the perimeter made Iranians unfurl their flags before entering. Police were stationed throughout the stadium alongside regular security guards. Some carried batons.

Early in the second half, a group of fans briefly held up letters spelling Mahsa Amini's name, to applause from Iranian supporters around them. Security personnel took their signs but allowed them to remain in their seats.

A Qatari official said before the match that authorities would ensure all matches were "safe and welcoming for all spectators". Items that "could increase tensions and risk the safety of fans" would not be permitted.

Gulf Arab monarchies, including Qatar, do not tolerate domestic dissent and protests are rare in the region.

Outside the stadium after the match, Reuters journalists saw stadium security chase two people in a series of scuffles on the stadium’s perimeter.