Wales will lock horns with Iran in the second round of World Cup Group B fixtures at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium on Friday in a make-or-break game for both teams.

Wales commenced their first World Cup fixture in 64 years in a nervous manner but rallied in the second half to salvage a draw against the USA, thanks to a thunderbolt penalty strike by none other than talismanic superstar Gareth Bale.

Rob Page’s half-time substitution, replacing Daniel James with Kieffer Moore, was an affirmation that his team selection decision had played a significant role in their troubles. The substitution proved to be the impetus for a comeback, as the balance shifted, and Wales eventually gained a well-deserved point.

All in all, it was a good point earned. And Page’s spirited men will know that a victory over Iran will put them in a great position to advance to the knockout rounds.

It was a difficult result to take for Iran. England were always going to be a difficult opponent for a World Cup opener. A 6-2 hammering was not in head coach Carlos Queiroz’s plans, and he will be seeking a response from his team as they now have a mountain to climb in their next two games if they hope to make the knockouts.

Take nothing away from the Iranian players, who were the unsung heroes versus England by refusing to sing their own national anthem, as supporters throughout the country applauded their stand in support of the massive protests that have beset the country. It was a brave step for which they could face consequences back home.

If either nation wants to advance past the group phase of the World Cup, they must win here, particularly Wales, who still have the toughest encounter in the group to come when they face England.

Team News & Tactics


Joe Allen has returned to light training as he recovers from a hamstring injury, but he is unlikely to play in this encounter. Harry Wilson and Ethan Ampadu were injured late in the USA game and are minor doubts against Iran.

Wales manager Rob Page will set up his team in a 3-4-2-1 system. But out of possession, they play a 5-3-2 or a 4-4-2 deep low block. And they do not press, which means they allow a lot of shots and rely on goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey. That could backfire against very potent Iranian strikers.

Hennessey will be guarded by a three-man backline of Chris Mepham, Joe Rodon, and Ben Davies. The wing-back duo of Neco Williams and Connor Roberts will provide additional defensive support as well as width on the other end of the pitch.

With Allen injured, Ethan Ampadu could be promoted into a defensive midfield position, while Aaron Ramsey are certain to start in the double midfield pivot. Daniel James will initiate the press and remains a big threat with his rapid speed in behind, making sharp runs from an attacking midfield position.

Gareth Bale will spearhead the frontline. But the former Real Madrid superstar will be ably supported by Kieffer Moore, who should start here after impressing as a substitute against the USA and will act more as the target man as Wales might look to use his strength and aerial prowess to trouble Iran defenders and get the ball forward in general.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Hennessey; Mepham, Rodon, Davies; Roberts, Ramsey, Ampadu, Williams; James, Bale; Moore


Sardar Azmoun was a significant injury risk prior to the tournament, but he was introduced off the bench against England. He could even start here, and that is good news for Itan. Azmoun was Iran’s undisputed striker throughout the World Cup qualification campaign, leading the team with ten goals.

He has scored 41 goals in 65 games for Iran since his debut in 2014 and has been at Bayer Leverkusen for a year. But Azmoun has struggled to get meaningful playing time since his arrival from Zenit St. Petersburg.

Azmoun is a pure striker who seldom moves from his central position on the field, meaning Mehdi Taremi will switch into a wing position thanks to his ability to take the ball at his feet and dribble past defenders. Alireza Jahanbakhsh always has a special acrobatic goal in his locker that he will look to use sooner rather than later, which means Iran could play a three-striker system.

Manager Carlos Queiroz will opt for a 4-3-3 formation after deploying a 5-4-1 against England. Goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand suffered a concussion early in the game against England and will most likely be replaced by Hossein Hosseini in between the sticks for Iran.

Sadegh Moharrami, Morteza Pouraliganji, Majid Hosseini, and Milad Mohammadi will form the defensive rearguard as they try to keep things solid on the defensive end of the pitch. Meanwhile, Ahmad Nourollahi, Saeid Ezatolahi, and skipper Ehsan Hajsafi are expected to man the engine room in the middle of the pitch for Iran, and they will look to overwhelm the Welsh double pivot.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Hossein Hosseini; Moharrami, Pouraliganji, Majid Hosseini, Mohammadi; Nourollahi, Ezatolahi, Hajsafi; Jakanbakhsh, Azmoun, Taremi

Key Stats

  • This is just the second-ever meeting between the two teams, with the previous encounter being a friendly in 1978, where Wales eked out a 1-0 win.
  • Iran have failed to win nine of their last ten FIFA World Cup matches. In fact, they have only secured two wins in 15 previous games at the coveted tournament and have never made it out of the group stage.
  • Wales are without a win in their last six games across all competitions, suffering four defeats (D2).
  • Iran have picked up three wins in their last six games in all competitions (D1, L2).
  • Iran have conceded eight goals across their last two games, having suffered a 2-0 loss to Tunisia in their final game before falling to a 6-2 thrashing in their World Cup opener.

Player to Watch

Kieffer Moore

Gareth Bale may have earned plaudits for his composure from 12 yards against the USMNT. But the introduction of Moore after the break made a huge difference, providing Welsh wingers with a focal point in attack. Iran struggled to deal with balls into the box against England, with their number one goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand missing after he sustained a head injury.

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With nine goals scored from 29 Wales appearances, the towering centre-forward is physically imposing and a nuisance in the opposition box. Moore also netted three goals in as many games for Bournemouth in the Premier League before heading to Qatar, so he is in good scoring form.


Wales 2-1 Iran

Both teams appear to have enough of a threat up front to suggest they will score goals, and that’s key to setting up an entertaining game. There should be chances at both ends here. But Wales look slightly ahead of Iran right now in terms of how settled they are as a team unit and the emotional aspect of the game, with the unfortunate events happening in Iran currently.

The Dragons might just edge this, particularly with Iran missing their first-choice goalkeeper. Iran did some things better last time out, and they are better than we saw in their opener, so expect a good fight from Team Melli. A moment of inspiration or a well-worked set piece could be the difference-maker for Wales.

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