On 21 June 1998, Iran secured their first-ever World Cup victory, beating the United States in the group stage, 1-2.
1998 marked Iran's return to the tournament after a 20-year absence (they had previously qualified for the World Cup in 1978, but exited in the first round after two losses sandwiched around a 1-1 draw with Scotland) and they opened their campaign with a narrow 1-0 loss to Yugoslavia.
Their second match was against the United States and drew worldwide attention due to the heated political relations between the two countries following the Iranian revolution of 1979. Anti-American sentiments in Iran grew to fiery heights in the 1980s, particularly after the US launched a military strike against Iran in 1988. In 1990, then-President Clinton issued an Iranian embargo.
Playing before a crowd of almost 40,000 in Lyon, the two teams tried to minimize any political relevance for the match, exchanging gifts and posing for a group photo prior to kick-off. In Iran, however, the match was celebrated as much for the opponent as for the result--Iran won convincingly after getting goals from midfielder Hamid Estili (40') and winger Mehdi Mahdavikia (84'). Striker Brian McBride scored a consolation goal for the Americans in the 87th minute to end the match as a 1-2 win for Iran.
Both teams went on to lose their remaining matches and were eliminated in the group stage.