Tempers are flaring between fans and journalists of geopolitical rivals USA and Iran ahead of their highly anticipated game at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar on Tuesday.
On Monday, a reporter from an Iranian news outlet chided Team USA captain Tyler Adams for his pronunciation of the Islamic Republic's name, which Adams referred to as "Eye-ran."
The reporter informed Adams that it was pronounced "E-rahn," adding "please, once and for all, let's get this clear."
Adams apologized and thanked the reporter for educating him.
The reporter also questioned Adams' stated support of the Iranian people amid nationwide protests, referencing the US' history of discrimination against Black people.
"There's discrimination everywhere you go," Adams said. "One thing that I've learned, especially from living abroad in the past years and having to fit into different cultures and kind of assimilate into different cultures, is that in the US we're continuing to make progress every single day."
The exchange came after Iran filed a complaint with FIFA's ethics committee over how the Iranian flag was rendered in a weekend social media posts published by the US Soccer Federation. In a mockup showing the Group B standings, the tricolor green, white and red flag was missing its usual emblem in the middle.
The posts in question were later deleted, but the Iranian news outlet Tansim claimed the graphic had "breached the FIFA charter," and Team USA "should be kicked out" of the World Cup.
The US Soccer Federation admitted in a statement that it had scrubbed the emblem in support of protests that have swept through Iran since mid-September following the death of a young woman in police custody. She was reportedly detained for declining to wear a hijab in public.
US Soccer told CNN that the "one-time graphic" had been taken down and replaced by the proper Iranian flag on its website and social channels. The US State Department denied any involvement in the stunt, the outlet reported.
On Monday, Adams and USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter denied that any player or staffer for Team USA had any knowledge or role in the disputed post.
"We had no idea about what US Soccer put out -- the staff, the players had no idea," Berhalter said. "And for us, our focus is on this match. I don't want to sound aloof or not caring by saying that, but the guys that worked really hard for the last four years, we have 72 hours between England and Iran, and we really are just focused on how to get past Iran and [how] we can go to this knockout stage of the tournament."
Elsewhere on Monday, Adams and Berhalter faced a series of politically charged questions from Iranian journalists, including regarding inflation in the US, the presence of US naval vessels in the Persian Gulf, and why Americans are permitted to travel to Iran but not vice versa.
The USA-Iran game was scheduled for Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET. The contest was must-win for Team USA in order to become one of 16 teams advancing to the knockout stage.