The second round of group matches get started at the FIFA World Cup on Friday and they begin with a Group B clash between Wales and Iran which could determine the fate of both teams for the remainder of the opening phase.
Wales are in a better position than Iran heading into the contest as they picked up a point in their first game while Iran got battered so the Asian qualifiers really need a positive result from this match to stay alive.
Where to watch
The match will be shown live and in full on BBC 1 in the UK with the build-up to the contest getting underway at 9.15am ahead of the kick off at 10am.
I think given the way they played in the first half of their opening game, Wales will take a point against the USA and move on. It has added extra importance and significance to this match because they won’t want to go into the game against England having to win to go through but when you consider the build-up to that first match and the fact it had been 64 years between drinks at the World Cup, I don’t think Wales will be too disappointed with the result.
One thing they won’t be happy with was that first half performance which was well below the standards they have set for themselves. Robert Page rectified that and got his team to deliver a result but you wonder just how long the Welsh can carry Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale for. Both looked well off the pace in that opening game whereas the younger, vibrant players in the squad offered plenty when they came onto the pitch.
I think most people expected Iran to set up tight and be hard to break down in this tournament. I suspect they tried to do that in their opening game against England but that plan didn’t just get blown apart, it got shredded and recycled in the process. Such was the margin of their defeat to England their hand has probably been forced here and while they won’t want to be open and expansive, they are going to have to set up with more intent as they have to win this game.
You wouldn’t think Iran could be as bad again but the one thing they did do right in that opening game was sack it off when they went a few goals behind. There was no busting a gut to get back into the game and that might benefit them here because it is a short turnaround between matches here and Iran certainly didn’t go deep into the energy reserves in that first match. One thing they did do though was take a couple of goals from the match with them and that might give them confidence here.
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Wales are expected to make a couple of changes to their side for this match. Kieffer Moore made such a difference in the first game and he is expected to lead the line while Joe Allen is fit to play some sort of role in the match too.
Iran are going to be without their goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand after the sickening collision he was involved in during the early stages of the game against England. Sardar Azmoun is expected to start after coming off the bench against England.
My gut feeling is that Iran are a big price in this match because Wales really emptied the tank in getting back into their match against USA earlier in the week but the better bet might just be the odds against on both teams to score because both sides looked very vulnerable in their first game. USA didn’t really offer too much that wasn’t gifted to them but they could still have had a few goals against Wales while Iran were all over the shop against England.
We did see Iran show some quality going forward though and there was more than enough to suggest they can trouble the Wales defence, especially if there are some tired legs being sent into battle once again. Mehdi Taremi showed his quality on the World Cup stage in that first game and Sardar Azmoun will surely play a big part in this game. In short, neither of these defences looked trustworthy in the opening game and both attacks looked like they can deliver so I’m going to back them to do exactly that and take both teams to score.
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