The expanded 2026 World Cup may not necessarily feature three-team groups amid criticism of the proposed reforms, says FIFA's chief of global football Arsene Wenger.

In January 2017, the FIFA Council voted to increase the number of teams participating in the World Cup finals from 32 to 48, with the first tournament under the new format set to take place across the United States, Mexico and Canada in four years' time. 

FIFA initially said the new format will contain 16 groups of three teams, with the top two in each advancing to a 32-team knockout stage, but that proposal has attracted renewed criticism recently.

Several thrilling group-stage finales at the current tournament in Qatar, where Japan and South Korea advanced in dramatic circumstances and the possibility of Poland and Mexico being separated via their disciplinary records emerged, have provoked calls to abandon the plan.

The existing proposal would see an end to groups being decided by simultaneous fixtures on matchday three, but Wenger has revealed the format could yet be altered.

"This is not decided, but it will be 16 groups of three, 12 groups of four, or two sides of six groups of four, like you organise two 24-team [tournaments]," Wenger said on Sunday.

"I will not be able to decide that, it will be decided by the FIFA Council, and I think it will be done in the next year."

Earlier this week, it was also reported FIFA were considering the introduction of group-stage penalty shoot-outs under the new format, with winning teams being granted a bonus point. 

Sixteen cities were officially selected to host games at the 2026 World Cup earlier this year, with Vancouver, Toronto, Guadalajara, Monterrey and Mexico City joining 11 locations across the USA.

The United States must be proud of their efforts at the World Cup in Qatar, but Christian Pulisic insisted the team "don't want to feel like this again."

A 3-1 defeat to the Netherlands at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha saw the USA knocked out of the competition on Saturday.

While the Dutch had a quarter-final against either Australia or Argentina to look forward to, the USA's focus will now turn to developing their young squad further ahead of the 2026 edition.

That tournament will be co-hosted by the USA, Canada and Mexico, and feature 48 countries, and Pulisic wants to see a team with title-winning quality.

"Right now, it's just tough, you know? It hurts, after a tough loss like that, we feel like we could have had more," he said.

"It's another experience for all these guys, moments that we can be proud of. We don't want to feel like this again. We want to put ourselves in a position to win tournaments like this."

Pulisic missed a golden opportunity to open the scoring three minutes into the game, seeing a close-range attempt saved by Andries Noppert.

In contrast, Memphis Depay slotted away the Netherlands' first big opportunity, with Daley Blind making it 2-0 on the stroke of half-time.

"It happened so early in the game, and he made a good save," said Pulisic, who assisted Haji Wright for the USA's goal, which was swiftly cancelled out by Denzel Dumfries at the other end.

"They defended well for the most part, but I think when their first kind of two real chances went down, they just cut back, execute it, finish.

"We were down 2-0, but it didn't feel like it should be that way. But that's what good teams do."

USA coach Gregg Berhalter is approaching the end of his contract, and did not give much clarity over what his future holds.

Antonee Robinson, however, hopes Berhalter continues in the role as the USA look to build towards 2026.

"I hope so," said the Fulham full-back. "He's given a lot of boys a chance to develop with this group, and I feel like this whole time we've shown the type football we can play."

Netherlands players shrugged off criticism about their style of play from supporters after seeing off the United States 3-1 to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

The Oranje have attracted flak from fans and media due to the brand of football and system used by Louis van Gaal, with their classic 'Total Football' approach and 4-3-3 formation discarded.

Van Gaal prefers to deploy a back three and puts an emphasis on making the Netherlands difficult to break down, aiming to hit teams on the counter-attack.

His system was reasonably effective against the USA at the Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday, with the Netherlands soaking up pressure and catching Gregg Berhalter's men on the break.

The Netherlands were 2-0 up at half-time, and although they came under more threatening pressure in the second half with the USA pulling one back, Denzel Dumfries – who set up the first two – capped off a strong individual performance to finish the Americans off.

Fans and media alike will still probably find reasons to criticise Van Gaal's men, but for Dumfries their performance vindicated the system.

"There's a lot of criticism because we are used to it [a certain style of play], we are good on the ball," he said. "Normally we play 4-3-3, but we play a different system [now].

"But the goals today… this is everything. I gave an assist for the other full-back, Daley Blind, and he gave an assist to me, so today we showed the quality of the system.

"In the Netherlands we are used to having the ball, playing with possession. This is a different way of playing and I also understand the criticism because we can play much better with the ball, create more chances.

"But you see when we get the ball, we have qualities on the counter, very fast strikers, and it's also a strength of ours. We have to focus now to continue to make the system work perfectly."

Nathan Ake sympathised somewhat with the Netherlands' critics, even agreeing with assessments about the Oranje perhaps failing to impress despite topping Group A.

But like Dumfries, the Manchester City defender believes the defeat of the USA showed how effective Van Gaal's system can be.

It was put to him that winning is all that matters, to which he replied: "It is, it is, but sometimes I think playing well helps getting the result.

"In the first few games we were a little lucky sometimes with how we got the goals or how we played, we could've conceded, but today I think we were much more solid defensively but also attacking wise, we created so many more chances.

"I think the first few games [the critics] were right. We didn't play our best football, but we knew from inside the camp that we got the points; played bad but got the points and qualified first.

"We knew we had to play better. I think today we showed much more [of] what we can do, play through spaces.

"Sometimes we had to defend a bit more, but we know we are very dangerous on the counter-attack and we haven't shown that in the last games. Today, we showed that."

The Netherlands will play either Argentina or Australia at Lusail on Friday in their quarter-final.

Louis van Gaal knows there is a long way to go, but declared the Netherlands can become world champions in Qatar.

Van Gaal's team progressed into the World Cup quarter-finals, where they will face either Australia or Lionel Messi's Argentina, with a 3-1 victory over the United States at Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday.

Memphis Depay and Daley Blind struck in the first half, with the excellent Denzel Dumfries – who assisted the Netherlands' first two goals – sealing the win after Haji Wright had pulled one back for the USA.

Van Gaal's pragmatic approach has seen him come in for some criticism, but his team are now just two wins away from the final, and three away from lifting the trophy for the first time in their nation's history.

"I get enough appreciation from the people around me," Van Gaal said in his post-match press conference when asked if he believed he needed to win the competition to gain respect from some of his critics.

"I know the media don't always report in a positive way, it's a given in football, but some top countries didn't progress, we still have three matches to go.

"We can become world champion. I am not saying that we will, but that we can."

According to Opta, who do not count penalty shoot-out losses as defeats, Van Gaal is unbeaten in his 11 World Cup games in charge of the Netherlands, a competition record.

The Netherlands have progressed from five of their last six round-of-16 matches at the World Cup, including progressing from their last three appearances at this stage, and while he was pleased with the outcome, Van Gaal pointed to the first half as an example of where the Oranje must up their game.

"I was very critical at half-time in my analysis I share with my players as usual," he explained.

"Despite being in the lead, we suffered so much, we were dispossessed so often, it was not necessary and that's not acceptable at a World Cup, if you play top countries you cannot make it.

"In the second half they did a much better job but nevertheless we were very pleased, and gives us incredible confidence. We will evaluate the match, then roll up our sleeves and get to work again, I can't promise any more than that."

Van Gaal will leave his role at the end of the Netherlands' campaign in Qatar, and that is serving as extra motivation for the players, according to defender Nathan Ake.

Ake told reporters: "I think you could see the fight we have, the whole team is united, everyone wants to do well for him.

"He's such an iconic figure for us and the Netherlands, so for him to do his last tournament, yeah obviously that's going to cross our mind."

Goalkeeper Andries Noppert added: "He's a really special person because he tries to make everyone better, he tries to keep it as one group. This is a special gift for a coach. 

"He gives you a really special feeling that you are all together, and for the World Cup and our squad, that's really important."

Gregg Berhalter backed the United States to take the next step on home soil in 2026 after seeing their encouraging World Cup run ended by the Netherlands on Saturday.

The USA suffered their fourth elimination in five World Cup last-16 ties at Khalifa International Stadium, as goals from Memphis Depay, Daley Blind and Denzel Dumfries gave the Oranje a 3-1 win.

Berhalter's team had 58.4 per cent of the possession and managed 17 shots during another energetic display, but they were unable to find a way back after falling behind 10 minutes in.

Head coach Berhalter said the USA – who will join Mexico and Canada in hosting the 2026 tournament – made clear progress in Qatar, only falling short due to a lack of a cutting edge.

"Today it was small moments. We're a very difficult team to play, a team other countries don't want to play against because of our intensity and movement," Berhalter said.

"What I would say is, when you look at the difference, to me there was offensive quality that the Netherlands had that we're lacking a little bit. 

"It's normal. We have a young group, players beginning their careers and we'll catch up to that, but we don't have a Memphis Depay right now, who plays at Barcelona and has played in the Champions League for years. Those are not excuses, that stuff is going to come.

"When you look at how we played, it should be positive. We should have confidence we can play against anyone in the world, the way we want to play, that's the important thing. 

"Now it's about taking that to the next level, where you can win in knockout games and keep going. They did a great job and we definitely put our stamp on this World Cup.

"I think this group is close. To be fielding the youngest starting XIs in the World Cup four times in a row, to still play the way we are, the American public should be optimistic. 

"We heard about the support we're getting from back home, it's something we really appreciate, we're sorry we couldn't win the game."

Asked whether he planned to lead the Stars and Stripes in four years' time, Berhalter added: "I've only been focused on the World Cup, achieving things with this group.

"In the next couple of weeks, I'll clear my head and think about what's next."

USA captain Tyler Adams echoed Berhalter's sentiments, expressing his pride in the team's efforts while emphasising the importance of their opponents' experience.

"I'm proud of the boys and we've shown we can hang with some of the best teams in the world," he told Fox Sports. "We've made progress and we will keep pushing. 

"We're not there yet, but we're close. It's exciting, the more time we have together, the more growth there will be. But we need to mature for matches like this.

"It comes down to the moments and the more experienced side got the better of us today."

Denzel Dumfries' heroics proved vital as the Netherlands rode their luck while beating the United States 3-1 on Saturday to reach World Cup quarter-finals.

Louis van Gaal's key tactic appeared to revolve around letting the USA have control, but the Oranje required two goal-line clearances in the second half before picking their opponents off late on.

It looked straightforward for a while as Dumfries set up Memphis Depay and Daley Blind to give the Dutch lead a commanding lead at the break.

Tim Ream and Haji Wright were then both denied by last-ditch interventions in the second period, before the latter gave the USA a lifeline.

But Dumfries finished them off to cap a wonderful performance and seal progress.

A lightning start should have brought a third-minute opener for Christian Pulisic, but the USA talisman failed to beat Andries Noppert.

The Netherlands capitalised on that let-off seven minutes later.

A 20-pass sequence ended with Dumfries pulling a low cross back to the edge of the box and Depay swept first-time into the bottom-left corner.

The Oranje subsequently allowed the USA to dominate and then hit them with a sucker punch on the stroke of half-time, Dumfries pulling back to Blind in a near-exact replica of the opener.

Ream was denied by Cody Gakpo's goal-line clearance just after the break, before Depay nearly gifted the USA a goal, with Wright rounding Noppert only to see Dumfries save the day.

Wright did score fortuitously soon after, the ball looping up off his foot and going over Noppert.

But dreadful marking allowed Dumfries to turn in a Blind cross nine minutes from time, killing off the USA's comeback hopes.

 

Christian Pulisic was named in the United States' starting XI for their World Cup round of 16 tie with the Netherlands.

Pulisic scored the USA's winner against Iran on Tuesday, securing their place in the knockout stage, but was sent to hospital for scans on an abdominal injury.

On Friday, it was confirmed Pulisic had been cleared to play a part against Louis van Gaal's team at Khalifa International Stadium, and Gregg Berhalter did not hesitate in throwing the Chelsea attacker back in from the off.

Pulisic has been directly involved in six goals in his past nine appearances for the USA, with four goals and two assists, having a hand in both of their goals so far in the World Cup. 

Josh Sargent, however, did not make the squad due to an ankle problem, with Jesus Ferreira coming in for his first appearance of the tournament.

The 21-year-old scored 18 goals in 35 MLS appearances for FC Dallas this past season.

At 25 years, 84 days, the USA's starting team is the youngest in a World Cup knockout match since Slovakia (24 years, 239 days), also against the Netherlands in 2010.

Van Gaal, meanwhile, stuck with the same team that started in the 2-0 victory over hosts Qatar last time out.

That means the in-form Cody Gakpo partners Memphis Depay in a front two – the PSV forward could become the first Netherlands player to score in each of his first four World Cup appearances, with Christian Vieri the last European player to do so in 1998. 

The Netherlands would love to start playing well, but beating the United States and reaching a World Cup quarter-final is their primary focus.

This has so far been an underwhelming tournament from the Oranje, although they still advanced top of Group A with two wins and a draw from their three matches.

Coach Louis van Gaal told the media to fly home if the football was "so terribly boring", but there is no doubt it is effective.

Discounting penalty shoot-outs, Van Gaal is unbeaten in his 10 World Cup matches as a coach. Only Felipe Scolari (12) and Mario Zagallo (11) have enjoyed longer undefeated streaks to start their finals careers.

The coach appears to have his players on board, as Marten de Roon said: "We are searching, that is clear. We hope it gets better, we all hope so.

"But the first goal is to get through to the next round. We are not deliberately playing badly here. Maybe one of you has the solution?

"Of course, we would prefer to play everyone off the carpet and win 5-0 every time and become world champions, but it is not that simple. Winning counts on Saturday, but how we do it matters less. Even if necessary through penalty kicks.

 

"I don't mind becoming a world champion without having played a good match. The positive is that we haven't lost. That may also give us the confidence that it can only get better."

The Dutch have reached at least the quarter-final in four of their last five appearances at the World Cup, exiting in the last 16 in 2006.

Meanwhile, the United States have lost three of their four last-16 matches, winning only in 2002 against Mexico.

They have only won one of five meetings with the Netherlands – all in friendlies – although that victory was in their last such clash in 2015.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Netherlands – Cody Gakpo

All the talk going into the tournament was around one forward in Memphis Depay, but the Netherlands have a new star. Gakpo put Oranje 1-0 up in all three group games, with David Villa in 2010 the last player to open the scoring in four matches at a single World Cup.

United States – Christian Pulisic

Pulisic expects to be fit for this match despite his injury against Iran, and his return will be welcomed. The winger has scored twice as many goals (22) for the USMNT as any other player in Gregg Berhalter's squad.

PREDICTION

The Netherlands may not be playing well, but the supercomputer expects their winning habit to continue. They are 51.9 per cent favourites for this one.

The United States have a 22.0 per cent chance, while a draw that would spell penalties has a 26.1 per cent likelihood.

Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal joked that his wife would have to make the final call on his next destination, as he did not rule out taking over as Belgium's boss.

Van Gaal will leave his role in charge of the Oranje after their World Cup campaign comes to an end in Qatar.

The United States are the Netherlands' opponents in the last 16 on Saturday.

One team that has not progressed from the group stage is Belgium, with the world's second-best side - according to the FIFA rankings - finishing third in Group F after Thursday's goalless draw with Croatia.

Roberto Martinez confirmed after the match that his six-year tenure as Belgium coach was coming to an end and on Friday it was put to Van Gaal that the Red Devils could be his next job.

"Belgium is a really friendly country with really friendly people, and Knokke-Hesti is a lovely beach town," Van Gaal said with a smile.

"It is surprising [Belgium are out]. There's players in the squad that are really marvellous, when you look at them individually. But it's all about the team.

"I was never at their training sessions, I don’t see every match. I saw the last match – they should have won and they would have qualified."

Asked if he would consider the move, Van Gaal quipped: "You've got to convince my wife!

"Joking aside, no. I'm always at liberty to take decisions myself but there are certain countries I would not move to and my wife wouldn't – simple as that.

"I am here with the Dutch team, we want to be world champion, and then we'll see if there's any offers on the table.

"I have said, if we become world champions, football is so opportunistic that I know there will be offers, I know that full well, but at the moment we are not world champion and if I believe the Dutch media, we will never be world champions!"

Van Gaal's immediate task is to guide the Netherlands into the last eight, where they would meet either Argentina or Australia, but he is far from underestimating the USA.

"All I can say is what I have seen. I was never present at training or meetings, or when he prepared his players," he said.

"What I've observed is a vision, what I see is a team that is keen to execute that vision, which is of the utmost importance, and I see the conviction of the players.

"That must be fantastic for a coach. It's how I feel about my group. I've conveyed that message for a year and a half because I don't think I've ever had a group like this one.

"You see it on the pitch, but I'm apparently only one in the Netherlands who sees that – it's probably me!"

United States captain Tyler Adams paid tribute to his team's unity during Tuesday's crucial 1-0 World Cup win over Iran, while defender Tim Ream applauded the skipper's impact.

Christian Pulisic got the winning goal for the USA just before half-time at Al Thumama Stadium, a victory that secured their progression to the last 16.

The build-up to the game was dominated by geopolitical topics due to the two nations' strained relationship, with this their first World Cup meeting since a clash at France 1998 that was dubbed the "most politically charged game" in tournament history.

Iran won that encounter 2-1 in Lyon, but this time the USA got the victory over the line. As superior as they were in the first half, Gregg Berhalter's men were far less dominant after Pulisic's forced withdrawal – due to a pelvic contusion that will be managed "day-to-day" – at half-time.

Iran piled the pressure on towards the end and went close twice in stoppage time, but the USA held out to set up a clash with the Netherlands.

Given they did not even qualify for the last World Cup, their progression shows how far the USA have come in recent years, and Adams' comments reflected the feel-good factor surrounding the team.

"For me, I have obviously dreamed of playing in a World Cup, and I didn't know when that time would come," he told reporters. "Obviously that has come now. I am very proud to be representing the US and this team.

"The group we have in this locker room is superb, every day we show up and try and get better, and focus on getting better.

"Tonight was one of those nights where you knew you could look to your left and look to your right and there was someone battling for you."

The USA have only ever been beyond the last 16 at a men's World Cup once in its current format, back in 2002 when a Landon Donovan-inspired side reached the quarter-finals.

Standing in the way of matching that accomplishment are the Netherlands, and the size of the task facing the USA is not lost on Adams, who rates the Oranje among the best in Qatar.

"Obviously it is a big opportunity for us; an amazing game," he said. "We have obviously played against good teams here already like England; the Netherlands could be another favourite to win the World Cup and they have done really well to navigate their way through the tournament so far.

"They've some amazing players, we are going to have to be ready. For now, we will try to have some downtime and relax to regain our focus. Our coaches will obviously come up with a game plan to get us ready."

Adams' performance was vital to the USA prevailing, with the Leeds United midfielder's poise key to their first-half control and his tenacity important in disrupting an improved Iran after the break.

His 84 touches, 62 completed passes and 12 recoveries were all highs for the match, while Adams also tallied the second-most tackle attempts (three) on the USA team, successfully taking back possession on each occasion.

Ream, playing behind Adams at centre-back, saw his captain's performance at close quarters and was grateful for his protection.

"[Adams] makes everyone's job a little bit easier. The amount of ground he covers, his energy, tenacity, work rate; it's just incredible what he does on a football pitch.

"As he grows the team grows, you could see that. It's a pleasure to play behind him."

Of course, it was not the first time this week Adams has been under the spotlight.

He faced up to some awkward questions in Monday's pre-match press conference, with an Iranian journalist calling him out over his pronunciation of Iran.

Suffice to say, Ream joined the chorus of praise for how Adams handled that particular situation.

"I thought it was brilliant," Ream said. "It is what it is, that's the world we're living in right now.

"For him to handle it with the poise that he did, and the sincerity that he showed, I think was fantastic."

Christian Pulisic was decisive as the United States beat Iran 1-0 to secure their place in the last 16 of the World Cup as geopolitics briefly took a back seat at Al Thumama Stadium.

Due to the long-strained relationship between the two countries politically and the ongoing civil unrest in Iran, the build-up to Tuesday's Group B clash was dominated by talk of almost anything but football.

Once the game settled, however, the USA's superiority was abundantly clear and Iran were fortunate to only trail by Pulisic's goal at the break, with Timothy Weah having one disallowed.

Carlos Queiroz's side did at least manage a shot after the break, but the USA had enough to see out a slender – albeit deserved – victory and set up a last-16 clash with Group A winners the Netherlands.

After an emotionally charged opening that saw both sides show purpose, the USA began to probe with the greater regularity.

Weah let Iran off the hook just before the half-hour, taking an early header – which led to an easy save – unaware he had time for the ball to drop.

Pulisic gave Alireza Beiranvand no chance 10 minutes later, though.

Sergino Dest headed Weston McKennie's exquisite pass into the danger zone and Pulisic slammed home while colliding with Beiranvand, ultimately forcing the Chelsea man off at the interval.

Weah strayed just offside before scoring what he thought was the USA's second, and half-time substitute Saman Ghoddos almost capitalised as he headed over just after the break.

Iran enjoyed a lot of late pressure but their efforts did not yield an equaliser, with Morteza Pouraliganji heading agonisingly wide and Mehdi Taremi failing to convert from close range in stoppage time.

In 1998, Lyon's Stade de Gerland played host to what has since become known as the most political match in World Cup history between the United States and Iran.

Relations between the two countries had been tense for three decades at the time, and Iran players were reportedly ordered by Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei not to walk towards their American counterparts during the pre-match handshakes.

Those pre-game formalities were carefully orchestrated to ensure the USA players were the ones walking during the pleasantries, but despite the political hostility, the Iranians handed white roses to their opponents as a peace offering and the two starting XIs posed for a joint photo.

The two nations will tussle for the first time in a competitive game since then on Tuesday, and despite the backdrop of civil unrest in Iran, this contest goes ahead with nowhere near the same kind of political intrigue.

Iran and the USA remain relatively hostile politically, but USA coach Gregg Berhalter was adamant that will not impact what occurs on the pitch during a game that is essentially a winner-takes-all encounter.

"I've played in three different countries, and I coached in Sweden, and the thing about soccer is you meet so many different people from all around the world, and you're united by a common love of the sport," Berhalter said.

"I envision the game being hotly contested for the fact that both teams want to advance to the next round – not because of politics or because of relations between our countries.

"We're soccer players and we're going to compete and they're going to compete and that's it."

Iran can secure their place in the last 16 with a draw, but the USA – who drew their first two matches – need to win.

The USA were eliminated by Iran as a result of a 2-1 loss in that infamous 1998 duel, which was also one of seven defeats they have suffered on matchday three on World Cup group stages.

They've only won their third group game once.

But the USA produced a positive performance during the draw with England, and Berhalter is happy his team have their destiny in their own hands.

"We win or we're out of the World Cup, and that's going to be the focus of ours in preparing the team," he added.

"Any time you're in a World Cup and you get to go into the last game controlling your destiny, that's a pretty good thing."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Iran – Sardar Azmoun

After being benched for the defeat to England, Azmoun started against Wales and carried real promise both in terms of his link-up play – their early disallowed goal was teed up by him – and his goalscoring threat.

His four shots was a team-high as was his 0.46 xG, he was just unfortunate in front of goal as he hit the post and saw a close-range header blocked by Wayne Hennessey.

Nevertheless, his performance was something of a statement after being left out on matchday one, and his pairing with Mehdi Taremi – who remarkably created eight chances last time out – will surely be key if Iran are to beat the USA.

United States – Christian Pulisic

The USA need to win, so they could do with their most-recognisable player leading by example in attack.

Pulisic had his moments against England, with his combined tally of five shots and chances created a high for his team, while he also generally worked hard, engaging in more duels (10) than any other USA player.

There's a perception Pulisic has failed to develop as many expected when he was younger, but this would be a great time to remind the doubters of his ability.

PREDICTION

According to Stats Perform's prediction model, the USA are more than twice as likely to win this game than Iran are, with their respective victory chances at 50.2 per cent and 24.1 per cent.

In fact, the supercomputer reckons a draw (25.7 per cent) is more likely than an Iran win, though crucially for Carlos Queiroz's men, a stalemate could be enough for progress as long as Wales don't beat England.

Gregg Berhalter apologised for US Soccer posting an altered Iran flag on social media but insisted he and the United States team knew nothing of it in a tense World Cup pre-match news conference.

The Group B meeting of the USMNT and Iran was always likely to be politically charged given the friction between the two countries.

In an early answer at his media briefing on Monday, Berhalter sought to head off such questions, saying: "When I think about this match, I know a lot of other constituents have a lot of feelings towards it.

"For us, it's a soccer game against a good team. It's not much more than that. It's a knockout game, both teams are desperate to go to the next round. That's how we're looking at this match."

But that did little to quell the line of questioning, which was not helped by a Twitter post on Sunday.

US Soccer uploaded an edited Iran flag without the emblem of the Islamic Republic in a move to support protestors in the country, where there has been unrest since the September death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died in police custody after being arrested for her refusal to wear the mandatory hijab.

That post prompted outrage in Iran, including state-affiliated media Tasnim calling for the United States to be removed from the World Cup.

Tyler Adams, who was corrected on his pronunciation of "Iran", said the USMNT "support Iran's people and Iran's team" but are "laser-focused on this match".

Berhalter expanded more on the topic, replying initially: "We had no idea about what US Soccer put out, the staff, the players had no idea. Our focus is on this match.

"I don't want to sound aloof or not caring in saying that, but the guys have worked really hard for the past four years.

"We have 72 hours between England and Iran, and we really are just focused on how to get past Iran and go to the knockout stage of this tournament.

"Of course our thoughts are with the Iranian people, the whole country, the whole team, everyone, but our focus is on this match."

When Berhalter was asked again about the Twitter post, he said: "I can only reiterate that the players and the staff knew nothing about what was being posted. Sometimes things are out of our control.

"We believe it'll be a match where the result depends on who puts more effort on, who executes better on the field, not what happens outside.

"We can only apologise on behalf of the players and the staff. It's not something we're a part of."

Former USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann had not helped matters when he accused Iran of having "worked the referee" against Wales, suggesting getting to the match officials and pushing the boundaries of acceptability was "part of their culture".

Iran boss Carlos Queiroz responded in a series of Twitter posts, calling for Klinsmann to be sacked from a role with FIFA, but he would not answer questions on the matter at his own news conference.

Berhalter added little, saying: "I'm up here to discuss the game USA-Iran, not Jurgen Klinsmann.

"You're talking about a guy who's up on the TV. If you want a comment on what he said and how he said it, you should ask Jurgen."

But it was not only questions from Iranian reporters that caused Berhalter some discomfort, with US media relaying Eric Wynalda's claim the coach had asked Gio Reyna to lie about an injury to explain his absence from the USMNT's first match.

"Speaking of a four-year journey, there's been also four years of interacting with you guys," Berhalter said. "I'll leave it to you to decide if I asked Gio to lie about it.

"That's just not who I am, that's not what I represent. If you have to take Eric's word or my word or whatever, feel free. I know what happened. That's not what I represent.

"Like every other person, Gio's a member of this team we care deeply for, and we know he can help the team. It's a matter of when he can help us and how he can help us."

Gareth Southgate believes England showed a different side of their play against the United States, securing what he feels is a valuable point.

The Three Lions missed the chance to become the first side to book their spot in the knockout stages after being held to a goalless draw by the USA, in a game where England's creativity and threat in the final third was lacking.

Instead, it was the USA who had the better opportunities throughout, Christian Pulisic striking the frame of the goal, while England were forced to adopt a more conservative approach than they did in their demolition of Iran.

Southgate is adamant a successful team needs to be able to show variation in a tournament, and gave a positive assessment of the performance.

"I'm really pleased with the application of the players, it's a really tough opponent, they played incredibly well," he said in the post-match press conference.

"To come off the high of the performance the other day and find that same energy, level of quality, it was always going to be a challenge.

"Their front six make it so difficult to play through and get at their defence, I thought we controlled the game really well, our two centre-backs were absolutely outstanding with the ball.

"To play with that sort of composure under the pressure and angles that the USA press with is difficult and it's only when you have two players like we have where you begin to appreciate the strain of the game that they can take.

"We lacked zip and control in the final third, we didn't really create enough in the final third, but we had a chance to show another side of ourselves in terms of the resilience, the recovery runs, covering our box well.

"To be a successful team in a tournament, you have to show those different faces and I think we did that tonight. I'm sure there will be a lot of noise about the performance but not many teams go through the World Cup and get nine points in the group.

"We're in a good position, we've got a little bit to do to qualify still, but we also have the opportunity to win the group.

"The players were very down and disappointed after the game but I told them that isn't how it's going to be for the next few days because I thought they showed another side to what they are about and it's going to be important moving forward."

Kieran Trippier echoed Southgate's assessment of the point being an important one, highlighting how the likes of Germany and Argentina have suffered surprising defeats so far in Qatar.

"The USA are a good side. Every single team in our group is top 20. You can't underestimate any of them," he told Stats Perform.

"You have to give respect to them. We knew it was going to be a tough game. You see the past results, they're a good side, a very good side.

"You look at other results in the tournament, and there are some big results gone against them. We've got to take positives. It's a good point.

"We're not at all [concerned about creativity]. Of course, in the final third there were some moments where we could be better, of course, but it's the second game in, four points on the board in the group, it's only positive from myself and the team.

"I think the motivation's there. England-Wales is a massive game. All we can do now is recover, review the game where we could have done better, and get ready for the next battle."

Yunus Musah believes "the whole world will see" the United States' quality after they held England to a goalless draw at Al Bayt Stadium.

England are considered among the favourites for the World Cup, but they were on the back foot for long spells against the USMNT.

Neither team could forge a breakthrough, despite Christian Pulisic saying his side "showed dominance" at times.

Musah felt a draw was the fair result, but the teenager – who was eligible to play for England – was still enthused by the United States' performance.

Agreeing it was a game in which the team could send a message, the midfielder said: "I feel like the team played really well today, showed how great they are.

"Most of them are playing in great teams at a high level, and I feel like today the whole world will see the US can do good things.

"I guess time will tell. We can't just live for one game. We've got to do it consistently."

Playing England made for an extra special occasion for Musah, but the United States as a whole could take encouragement from taking the game to one of the world's leading sides.

"We said that numerous times. These guys are one of the favourites to win the tournament," Musah said. "They're so good.

"We knew that, and we had to work double hard today to make sure they didn't score. I'm proud of the team."

The USMNT's success in frustrating England was evident in the way the Three Lions were booed off at the final whistle, and Pulisic added: "I guess that's a positive sign when you play for the other team.

"It was a really good performance. There were stretches of the game where we had control and we had them pushed back in their own half.

"Of course, the opposing fans don't like to see that, especially when we're the 'underdogs', but we went toe-to-toe with them and put in a good performance."

But the United States remain winless and must now turn their attention to Iran, who beat Wales earlier on Friday.

"I feel like a constant theme that I'm seeing when we watch any game is it's about who wants it more," said Musah.

"You saw Iran, they were running and running and running, closing down and fighting for every single ball.

"At the end of the day, every team's got quality, so the team who wants it more comes out on top most of the time. That's what I saw.

"We have to be ready for that. We can't drop the intensity against them."

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