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Wales – land of the bucket hat, home of the brave – must now be bold against Iran

Wales v Iran

We’ve had Wales’ World Cup starter. Now comes the main course.

You might think the real meat and two vege is the England game, but this match against Iran was always going to be the middle and main event for Wales in terms of which way their tournament will go.

Put bluntly, it looked must-win before we got to Qatar and it still looks that way now, despite the point taken by Rob Page’s men in that passionate and emotion-drenched opener against the United States.

If Wales can win – even a squeaky bum, narrow, 1-0 victory – they will have four points in the bag and that will pile massive pressure on the USA when they come to play England later in the day.

If the Americans concede a few goals against Harry Kane and Co, then they will be going into their last match against Iran, knowing they need a big win to overhaul Wales on goal difference.

But if Wales stumble against the Iranians, by drawing or – God forbid – losing, then it’ll be Wales who are scrambling to qualify by probably needing to beat England in that last game.

The omens are pretty good here for a Wales win, though.

Iran lost 6-2 to England and looked particularly vulnerable in their air.

After his enormous impact as a second-half substitute against the Americans, Kieffer Moore looks odds-on to start for Wales and that will be giving the Iranians sleepless nights.

They will have watched Moore’s menace – and the way he used his physical power in all areas – and gone almost as stoney-faced as they were when standing and listening to their own national anthem.

Gareth Bale also looked far more like himself in the second-half of the opener and you would fancy the Iranians to concede many more free kicks around their own penalty area than the USA did.

Iran’s goalkeeper, Ali Beiranvand, had to be taken off in the first half against England with concussion so, in line with protocols, he shouldn’t be available for selection.

Wales could have Joe Allen fit as he has stepped up his training in recent days, but it would still be a surprise if he was given a starting spot after his recent hamstring injury.

Neco Williams was injured in the opener, but he is not considered a doubt.

Need another good omen? In the Euro 2020 finals, played last year, Wales also drew their opener, 1-1 – against Switzerland – and then beat Turkey, 2-0, in their second group game.

That would do Wales nicely – especially if England manage a similar result against the Americans.

To make way for Moore, Page is likely to leave out Daniel James, although he may also start with Brennan Johnson in place of Harry Wilson.

Iran’s danger man is striker Mehdi Taremi – scorer of both his country’s goals against England.

Their manager, Carlos Queiroz, will look to Taremi to finish things off if Iran can use their quick counter-attacking game to stretch Wales on the break.

Wales manager Page admits: “Looking at the pool of players England have got, it was always a big ask for Iran to get anything out of their first game. 

“England are favourites for the group, the USA are second favourites, but there will be a few surprises along the way. 

“The good thing we’ve got, if you look on the bench now, we’ve got Brennan [Johnson] playing in the Premier League, he came on and made an impact, Kieffer came on and made an impact.

“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.

“We just need to be braver on the ball. I’m not not sure if it was the occasion and first game nerves, but we need to get on the ball and be brave.”

Wales – land of the bucket hat, home of the brave.

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