Wales came from behind to earn a draw with the USA on Monday. That was a far better performance than shown by Iran, who lost 6-2 to England. The English side therefore lead the group by two points from Wales and the USA. Wales started slowly on Monday and can't afford to do that again on Friday. A draw with the USA was a fair result and both teams still have a chance of qualification. Wales will know full well though that this is a game that they simply have to win. That and a defeat for the USA against England will be the perfect result for them.
The Welsh side doesn't just need to win this game. This group may well be decided on goal difference and Wales need to follow in the footsteps of England and score a few goals. They have scored in 13 of their last 14 internationals and that's an impressive statistic. It's even better when you consider they have been playing teams such as the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland. Wales have only scored more than once though in one of their last nine games. That was in a 3-2 loss away to the Netherlands in June of this year. Only against Belarus have Wales scored more than twice in a game since November 2020. A narrow win over Iran would earn them three points but it would put them under pressure to get something from the England match. Unless of course England have another big win.
A key factor in this match is how Iran will react to Monday's heavy defeat. Losing any match 6-2 is hard to recover from, let alone an opening World Cup game. It is rare for them to concede a lot of goals in a match. Even when up against Spain and Portugal in the last World Cup finals, they only conceded twice in three games. Their worse defeat in the World Cup finals had previously been a 4-1 loss to Peru and that was 46 years ago.
They did look rattled after their first-choice goalkeeper Beiranvand had to leave the field of play. It took England 35 minutes to score the first goal but then the floodgates opened. Iran did manage two goals and that's probably the only encouraging fact from their opening game. It looks beyond them to earn enough points against Wales and the USA to qualify for the last 16. Have the political problems at home affected Iran? Their refusal to sing the national anthem indicates it might be doing so. They will want to put on a better performance in this game. Wales are our tip to win but it most likely won't be anywhere near a 6-2 scoreline.
Wales know three points are an absolute must here. Then they can sit back and hope the USA lose to England to see them stay second in the group. That would see England qualify with a game to spare and they might play a weakened line-up in their final game against Wales. That's the theory but Wales need to beat Iran and by a decent margin. Their confidence will have been boosted by their second half comeback against the Americans. A better first half performance is needed for sure. Perhaps on Monday, it was the importance of the occasion that got to them early on. Iran have to recover from the 6-2 hammering by England. They haven't become a bad team overnight but need to play far better against the Welsh side. Go for Wales to win this game and boost their qualification hopes.
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