(NewsNation) — The match between Iran and the U.S. may feel like more than just soccer, but the players will be focused on the game.
Former U.S. men’s soccer player Oguchi Onyewu told NewsNation that for players, politics takes a back seat to the sport.
“This is a big moment in their history, in their career. They’ve gone through the tournament thus far undefeated, both Wales and England, and they really want the opportunity to get out of this group stage,” he said.
Incidents like the U.S. Soccer Federation displaying an Iranian flag without the emblem for the Islamic Republic are things Onyewu said players and fans shouldn’t focus on.
While the stakes for the U.S.-Iran match are high, Onyewu said Team USA has a lot going for it despite the players being relatively inexperienced.
“We’re really excited about their youth, their energy and their prospects for the future. So regardless of the outcome of today, or this tournament, I think the future in the national team is very, very bright,” he said.
While there have already been some surprising upsets in this year’s World Cup, Onyewu said that’s what makes the game so great.
“I think that’s the beauty of soccer. It’s 11 men or women against 11 men or women and any result can happen on any given day,” he said.
Watch the full interview in the player above.