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From Negotiating Table to Soccer Field, U.S. and Iran Match Up Again at World Cup

Iran and USA fans wave their flags during their World Cup group stage match in Lyon in 1998. Photograph: Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images

The United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran, political and military enemies, are now becoming sports rivals.

The two nations’ FIFA soccer teams will face off in the World Cup this fall.

The drawing of the names for the FIFA competition bracket comes as no word has come down on the fate of reviving a nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran. The talks surrounding the nuclear deal are said to have stalled.

The soccer match won’t be held until November 29 at the World Cup competition. Qatar is hosting the 22nd FIFA soccer championship, the first time the World Cup has been held in the Middle East.

The U.S. and Iran last faced off in 1998, when Iran upset the U.S. to win 2-1.

This is the third year in a row the Iranian team has qualified for the World Cup. Iran’s head coach, Dragan Skocic, is Croatian, and has been Iran’s head coach since February of 2020.

FIFA has urged Iran’s illiberal regime to allow women spectators at men’s FIFA matches held in Iran. Although the regime officially bans women from sports stadiums, it has allowed some women to spectate in recent years in response to threats from FIFA about its membership.

But recently, Iran made headlines when female soccer fans hoping to attend a qualifier match in the city of Mashhad were barred by security guards and pepper-sprayed after they gathered outside the stadium. FIFA did not mete out any punishments in response to the female fans’ treatment, which Iran’s president called to investigate.

There are several online campaigns calling for Iran’s disqualification from the games as a result of the attack on the women. Iran’s team is still set to play in November.

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