World Cup 2022: Reasons for Iran to be confident of beating Wales

sportsmole.co.uk, 24 November 2022, 19:21
Iran will be looking to bounce back from a chastening opening-game defeat when they continue their World Cup campaign against Wales at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Qatar on Friday.

Carlos Queiroz's side were put to the sword by a rampant England as they fell to a 6-2 defeat on matchday one, leaving them playing catch-up from the start in a competitive Group B.

However, a match against Wales represents arguably their best chance on paper of picking up only a third-ever World Cup win, so there will still be some degree of optimism amongst the Iran camp heading into matchday two.

Here, Sports Mole looks at some reasons why Iran should be confident of picking up a positive result on Friday.

Iran's bouncebackability

Losing their opening game of a World Cup is nothing new for Iran - indeed, their defeat to England is the fourth time in their six World Cup finals that they have been beaten in the curtain-raiser.

Granted, they may not be used to losing in such emphatic fashion, but they do have a good record of bouncing back after a slow start to their campaigns.

While they have lost four of six openers, they have only ever lost their opening two games of a World Cup on one previous occasion - the 2006 edition.

Monday's defeat to England is an anomaly when it comes to their recent form too, and when it comes to manager Carlos Queiroz's previous record in the competition.

The former Portugal boss may have only won two of his 11 World Cup games as a manager, but his first 10 such matches had only seen his sides concede seven goals, until England almost matched that tally in one game earlier this week.

Many had expected a tight game given Iran had kept 14 clean sheets in 20 games ahead of the England match, so if normal service is resumed on Friday then it should provide a much sturdier foundation from which to gain a good result.

Attacking firepower

Even in such a heavy defeat, there were positives to cling to for Iran as they managed to score twice in a World Cup game against one of the favourites to lift the trophy.

Admittedly, one of those came from a soft penalty, and whether England would have been cut through so easily for the first if the game had been closer is up for debate.

However, that first goal showed the movement, attacking instincts and lethal finishing of Iran's star man Mehdi Taremi, who lashed his powerful shot past a helpless Jordan Pickford.

Taremi's threat is not exactly news - he has 15 goals and eight assists in 20 games for Porto this season - but his brace saw him secure a slice of World Cup history as he became the first player from an Asian country to score more than once in a game in the competition.

On top of that, Iran also have the 29-goal Karim Ansarifard and the 41-goal Sardar Azmoun in their ranks, the latter of whom did not start against England but is his country's third-highest scorer of all time, with a goals-per-game ratio behind only legendary 109-goal striker Ali Daei in Iran's top 10.

Wales' World Cup record

Iran's record of only two World Cup wins is nothing to shout about - although they will continue to shout about their 1998 triumph over USA forever - but they still have far more experience on this stage than Wales.

Rob Page's side are the first crop of players to represent Wales at a World Cup since 1958, and the 1-1 draw with USA, while a satisfactory start for them, means that they are still searching for their first win on the biggest stage since that tournament in Sweden 64 years ago.

Indeed, Wales have now drawn four of their six previous matches at World Cups, giving them a higher ratio of World Cup draws than any other nation in the competition's history.

Iran will be after a win rather than a draw, of course, but a point would still keep their hopes of qualifying alive heading into their grudge match against USA on matchday three - particularly if England beat the Americans - whereas a defeat could all-but eliminate them.

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