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International Tournaments

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

sportsmole.co.uk, 24 November 2022, 18:50
Wales will go in search of their first World Cup win since 1958 when they take on Iran at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Qatar on Friday.

Having returned to the biggest stage for the first time since being knocked out by a previously-unknown prodigy named Pele 64 years ago, Rob Page's side will now look to add more points on the board and hugely boost their chances of progressing from Group B.

A draw with USA in their opening game means victory over Iran could be pivotal with England still to come, but Iran will be looking for a response themselves following their heavy 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Three Lions.

Here, Sports Mole looks at some of the reasons why Wales should feel confident of chalking up a famous victory.

Encouraging history

Wales' history at the World Cup may be relatively short, but their record against Asian opposition is very encouraging heading into Friday's clash with Iran.

The Group B contest will be the eighth time that Wales have come up against an Asian team, and they are unbeaten in all of their previous seven, winning five and drawing two.

Indeed, they have kept six clean sheets and only ever conceded once in those seven matches too, with the most recent being a 6-0 hammering of China in March 2018.

Conversely, Iran have never won a World Cup match against a European nation, with seven defeats and two draws from their last nine attempts.

The most recent of those was, of course, their 6-2 drubbing against England on matchday one, which took their tally of goals conceded in those games up to 20.

On top of that, Iran boss Carlos Queiroz has now only won two of his 11 previous matches as a manager at the World Cup, losing five of those in a career which has also seen him take Portugal to the tournament.

Star quality

There is a danger to being over-reliant on one or two players - and that comes into even sharper focus when those players are nearing the end of their careers - but that danger is lessened when the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey consistently deliver at the moments Wales need them most.

Bale did that in the opening game, holding his nerve to score the penalty which earned his side a point, and in the process continuing a record which has largely carried Wales through their recent major tournaments.

Ten of Wales' last 14 goals at their last three appearances at a World Cup or European Championship have now seen either Bale or Ramsey score the goal or provide the assist, and their track record of big goals in big moments goes far beyond major tournaments too.

While Kieffer Moore is by no means a household name like those teammates of his, he is also establishing himself as a reliable member of the Welsh team whenever he plays, and his impact off the bench against USA should be enough to earn him a starting role against Iran.

Moore only came on in the second half, yet he was still involved in more shots and had more touches in the opposition area than any other Welsh player.

Wounded Iran

Iran are far more experienced than Wales on the biggest stage, and will be looking to make the most of that experience during Friday's clash.

However, the majority of those experiences are not good ones, and their 6-2 loss to England on matchday one will have been particularly harrowing as they got their 2022 campaign off to a nightmare start.

Iran will have gone into the group stages hopeful of picking up points in all of their games, but the Wales match is arguably the one with the least fanfare around it, and the prospect of a showdown with USA next up might be one that some of the players have their eyes on given the political history between the two nations.

Team Melli famously beat USA at the 1998 World Cup - one of the most famous results in Iran's history - and with such a big game on the horizon, there could be the danger that Iran are not fully focused on Wales.

That said, defeat would leave them on the brink of elimination and so it is already almost last-chance saloon for Queiroz's side.

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