IR Iran v USA: Group B - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
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We did it, Gregg! The United States qualified for the knockout stages. It wasn't easy. Scoring the lone goal of the match briefly landed Christian Pulisic in the hospital, but all that matters now is that the team is off to play the Netherlands Saturday morning. I'm Mike Goodman, and I'm breathing a giant sigh of relief as I welcome you to Day 11 of the World Cup. Let's get to the Golazo Starting XI.

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Wednesday's slate:

  • Australia vs. Denmark 10 a.m. ET
  • Tunisia vs. Netherlands 10 a.m. ET
  • Poland  vs. Argentina 2 p.m. ET 
  • Saudi Arabia vs. Netherlands 2 p.m. ET

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⚽  The Forward Line

Early USMNT questions for the Netherlands game

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Congrats on beating Iran and advancing to the last 16 in the World Cup. Nice looking bracket you've got there. No time to rest on your laurels, though. The Netherlands game is only three days away. Here are three pressing questions the United States must answer as they prepare for Group A's winners.

1. Can Pulisic get on the field?

Pulisic's goal against Iran is the stuff legends are made of. The man threw himself at the ball and got himself rocked in the process. He apparently sent a Snapchat from the hospital later that night, suggesting he'll be good to go on Saturday. And Pulisic certainly seemed to be enjoying himself back at the hotel where the team got a hero's welcome on their return. He's the best player the team has and a leader on the field. And if he can't go, while the U.S. have some options, none can quite bring the big-game experience that he has. Brenden Aaronson and Gio Reyna are the next men up, but everything this team does runs through Pulisic.

2. How can Gakpo be stopped?

Get used to the name Cody Gakpo. You're going to be hearing it a lot before Saturday. Gakpo is the player that the Netherlands feature in attack. He's kind of a winger, kind of an attacking midfielder and kind of a striker in this very odd Dutch system. But most of all, he's the guy scoring the goals for the Netherlands. Gakpo is also one of Europe's hottest prospects with the world's biggest clubs all interested and tempting him away from PSV Eindhoven. If the United States can somehow figure out a way to keep him under control, they might be able to win a low-scoring match against this very good, but not quite great, Dutch side.

3. Can Berhalter concoct another winning tactical plan?

In each of the last two matches, manager Gregg Berhalter put together a plan that put his team's best foot forward. Against England, he sneakily switched the team to a two striker system, with winger Tim Weah playing alongside Haji Wright in attack and Weston McKennie shifting out to the right from his usual midfield spot. Against Iran, he started Cameron Carter-Vickers in place of the ever-present Walker Zimmerman in order to get Carter-Vickers' on-ball ability on the field. Both moves worked like charms. When it comes to game-planning, Berhalter likes to tinker around the edges, altering how his team plays just enough to gain an edge. Sometimes it backfires, but in Qatar's he's twice pulled off the trick to great success. He'll need to go for three.

Listen below and follow In Soccer We Trust: A CBS Sports Soccer Podcast where your three favorite former USMNT players cover everything you could possibly want to know about the United States men's national team during the World Cup in Qatar.

🔗  Midfield Link Play

Argentina and Messi could go home

Lionel Messi and his Argentine squad probably won't get eliminated from the World Cup. But they could be. A surprise loss to Poland would put them at the mercy of the Mexico-Saudi Arabia game being played at the same time. A draw to Poland would leave Saudi Arabia in position to eliminate Argentina with a win over Mexico. El Tri would also be in similar position to usurp Argentina if they can beat Saudi Arabia by enough to make up the goal difference. That's the beauty of the final day of the World Cup group stage. There's lots of possibilities for chaos if we get an upset here or there. You wouldn't expect Argentina to have much trouble with Poland, but you wouldn't have expected them to lose to Saudi Arabia either.

Let's get to some links:

💰  The Back Lines

Best bets

Let's pick some games! All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.

  • Saudi Arabia vs. Mexico, Wednesday, 2 p.m. ET 
    💰 THE PICK: Saudi Arabia (+420). Given the price you can get on Saudi Arabia, clearly markets don't believe in them after two games. I do. Or maybe, more pointedly, I don't believe in Mexico. El Tri need to win and they need help even if they do. But the Concacaf side just has a miserable time scoring goals because its attack leaves a lot to be desired. That means Tata Martino will need to open up and take risks that this Saudi side can exploit. At this price, there's enough of a chance that Herve Renard's team does just that.
  • Poland vs. Argnetina, Wednesday, 2 p.m. ET 
    💰 THE PICK: Under 2.5 (-140). Hard to see there being a lot of goals in this one. Argentina shifted into do-just-enough-to-win mode against Mexico. Poland, meanwhile, can advance even if they lose close, provided that Saudi Arabia don't win. There are just a lot of worlds where Argentina go up 1-0 and both sides are happy to kick the ball around until the clock hits 90 minutes.

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