In one of the biggest geopolitical clashes at a World Cup, the United States played Iran in a group match at the 1998 tournament in France.
Relations between the two countries had been hostile since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, which ousted the pro-American Shah and eventually led to a drawn-out hostage crisis that severely blighted President Jimmy Carter’s re-election bid the following year.
When the teams met in 1998, French riot police were on site at the stadium in Lyon. They weren’t needed. The teams did their best to reduce tensions by posing together in a group photo. Iran’s players even brought white roses for their opponents.
A spirited match that was low on malice saw Iran end up winning 2-1, its last victory in the World Cup. Neither team managed to progress beyond the group stage.
Relations between the countries are particularly strained again after President Donald Trump announced he will withdraw the United States from the nuclear deal brokered with Iran, but there’s no likelihood of the teams competing at this year’s World Cup. While Iran will face Spain, Portugal and Morocco in Group B, the United States will be watching on television after failing to qualify for the first time since 1986.
AP World Cup coverage: www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup