In a life blessed with more live soccer matches than I possibly count, one that I’ll never forget played out back in 1998, a high-tension night as the United States met Iran in Lyon, France.
A real State Department nightmare, that one. I will never forget the palpable tension – not to mention the extended rings of security that meant a longer hike into the stadium – that warm night at Stade Gerland.
You could make an argument that U.S.-Iranian relations are worse today than back in 1998. So what are the chances of a U.S.-Iran contest at World Cup 2014 next year in Brazil?
Well, “a little better today than yesterday” is the short answer.
That’s because Iran scored an absolutely huge victory over Qatar, reviving a World Cup pursuit that was just about on the skids. Tuesday’s 1-0 win at Doha’s Al Sadd Stadium more or less finishes Qatar’s chances while positioning the Iranian’s in reasonable shape.
Remember, Iran is coached by Carlos Queiroz, a big figure in the game who has managed here (with New York), at Real Madrid, at Portugal (as national team manager as well as under-20 steward of the “Golden Generation”) and has served as Alex Ferguson’s longtime assistant at Manchester United.
The Asian final round standings are here; the top two teams from each group qualify automatically for Brazil, with the two third-place finishers still capable of reaching the tournament through two additional play-in series.