(MENAFN- The Peninsula)
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Doha: Wales would take a step towards the knockout stage at the World Cup if they overcome Iran in their Group B fixture today, but the Carlos Queiroz-coached side will be looking to thwart their efforts at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.
Wales drew 1-1 with USA in their opening World Cup match on Monday, thanks to a late penalty strike by captain Gareth Bale as The Dragons marked their return to World Cup after 64 years.
Wales' Gareth Bale during a training session at Al Sadd Sports Club. Reuters
The Welshmen will face a bruised and battered Iranian side who are fresh from bitter memories after a 6-2 hammering in the hands of England on Monday.
Wales are tied for the second place in their group with USA on one point from the draw, and coach Rob Page said yesterday that he and his team have learned the lessons.
“Lessons have been learned. It was important we didn't lose the game,” Page said.
“We have strength in depth. I can look over my shoulder to the bench and we've got players who can come on and have a real impact on games,” Page said, before noting that his team is currently dealing with few fitness issues.
“Before we play Iran, the medical team will have work to do. We have players not playing week-in, week-out, they are cramping up,” he said.
“We've got some tired bodies in there so we've got to get a team ready to go again on Friday.”
Meanwhile, Gareth Bale will be his key man today, with the reliable Los Angeles FC star set to move past Chris Gunter as Wales most capped player.
“I haven't really been focusing too much on the cap thing to be honest,” Bale said during a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Centre yesterday.
“I'm just trying to focus on the game.
“Obviously, on a personal level it's an amazing achievement an honour to represent my country so many times but it is more important that we try and get that victory tomorrow and hopefully we can and that would make it even more special,” the Welsh talisman said.
Meanwhile, for Iran, a defeat for them could mean a disastrous early exit in Qatar.
As Iran's coach Carlos Queiroz targets a U-turn at Qatar 2022 in today's match, his main man will be Mehdi Taremi, who scored both of their goals against England.
However, the Portuguese tactician will be sweating over the fitness of goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand who collided with team-mate Hosseini Majid during the match against England and was substituted following a horrible injury.
Following their loss on Monday, Queiroz called for support to his players, noting that they have been under a lot of stress due to what is being going on their country.
“Please, the teachers, the moralists, let the kids play the game. These kids only want to play the game,” Queiroz said.
“I hope the players of England and Wales and United States praise them for having the courage to play the game. They are here to bring pride and happiness to the people,” he said.
When: Today at 1:00pm
Where: Ahmad bin Ali Stadium (Capacity: 40,000)
- Wales are looking to qualify for the knockout stages for the first time since 1958 - their last appearance at the World Cup.
- No Welsh player has scored more goals at major tournaments than Gareth Bale, who grabbed his fourth with a late penalty against the United States in their group opener.
- Iran are bottom of the group with the worst goal difference after England thrashed them 6-2 in their group opener.
- Iran have never gone past the group stage and have won only one of their last 11 matches at the World Cup, a 1-0 win over Morocco four years ago.
Wales beat Iran 1-0 in their only meeting in a 1978 friendly, with Phil Dwyer scoring the winner.