USA to play Iran in friendly, according to report

Amin M. Jamali

Bring on the politics: the U.S. and Iran look set to play each other in a friendly.

Few countries are more at odds politically than the United States and Iran, but that won't stop their soccer teams from playing each other, if a report from Gazzetta is correct. The two sides have apparently agreed to take part in a four-team tournament that will also include a team from Europe and another from South America, setting the U.S. and Iran up for just their third ever meeting.

"We received approval from the (U.S. Soccer Federation) for a tournament that will involve both national teams," Iranian FA president Ali Kafashian told Gazzetta.

Kafashian did not say when or where the tournament would be played, but several teams are expected to play pre-World Cup friendlies in the U.S. next May and June and a competition like the one the Americans and Iranians are set to play would make sense in that time.

Iran has one of their best teams in decades, easily qualifying for the World Cup by winning their group ahead of South Korea. Most of their success can be attributed to a great defense, which allowed just two goals in eight matches in the final round of qualifying. It was the best defensive effort by any team in Asia and helped them move up to 48th in the FIFA rankings.

The U.S. and Iran have played twice before, with the Iranians coming away with a win at the 1998 World Cup and then drawing the Americans two years later in a friendly at the Rose Bowl. When the two teams do meet, the focus always turns to politics, or how sport can help ease tensions. The countries have been at odds ever since the U.S.-supported Shah was overthrown in 1979 and the hostage crisis that followed, with the two nations rarely, if ever agreeing on anything.

But politics aside, the U.S. have a World Cup to prepare for and, for the first time since 2006, so do Iran. It appears as if they will do so against one another.

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