Bale admits Wales are on the brink after late Iran defeat
Gareth Bale admitted Wales are on the verge of World Cup elimination after slipping to a late 2-0 defeat to Iran.
The 10-man Dragons suffered a heartbreaking loss in Qatar as Rouzbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian struck in the depths of stoppage time for the Iranians.
With that defeat leaving Rob Page’s men on just one point after two games, the Welsh need to beat England on Tuesday night to keep their hopes of progressing alive.
At the final whistle, captain Bale, 33, said: "It’s gutting. We’re gutted, there’s no other way to say it.
"We fought until the last second but its one of those things that’s difficult to take but we have to recover and go again.
"[We have to] just keep going. We have to recover, we’re all gutted. We have to pick ourselves up straight away.
"It’s going to be difficult [to qualify for the last 16] but we have one game left and we have to try and look at every positive and still try and enjoy the occasion.
"It’s going to be difficult, for sure. We’ll have a look at the other games and we’ll see."
After a dominant display by Iran, the Dragons’ hopes of victory were dealt a blow in the 86th minute when goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was shown a red card after charging out of his goal and clattering into Mehdi Taremi.
Bale felt it was a turning point in a tense affair up to that point.
He added: "I haven’t seen it so I don’t really know but the red card changes the game. We let the first one in and then the second one really doesn’t matter. We have to recover straight away."
Disappointed Dragons boss Page conceded his side were poor but urged them to focus on finishing strong against neighbours England next week.
The 48-year-old said: "Our performance before the red card was not acceptable.
"We hoped it would all come together, but we were nowhere near the levels we've set and the standards we've set in recent games.
"One or two you can carry, but when there are so many off days there is only one outcome.
"I always take responsibility, that's my team. The sending off didn't help of course but at that point we had five forwards on the pitch so couldn't get a defensive shape.
"But yes I'll always take responsibility for performances.
"It's a difficult changing room at the minute but we will be ready [against England]. It's a local derby and a great game to finish on and we'll be prepared to go."
After being second best for much of the contest at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, former Wales striker Iwan Roberts was critical of Page’s men.
He said: "I'm extremely disappointed in how Wales performed. If we're being honest, we haven't been good enough in the two games.
"The thing for Wales is our fitness levels. Not enough of our players are playing 90 minutes regularly. Not enough energy, nobody looked fresh. You can get a couple of players through like that, but not five or six.
"We were lucky against the USA. We lost to the better team, no doubt about it. They were fitter, more confident, more sharp. We can't complain about that result at all."
Ashley Williams, who captained Wales during their run to the Euro 2016 semi-final, was more sympathetic towards his compatriots.
The ex-Swansea defender, 38, said: "I think Wales gave it their all as they always do, they worked as hard as they could in this second half. Iran probably shaded Wales a bit.
"We didn’t get ourselves into good enough areas in the second half and didn’t have enough chances on the Iranian goal. So I’m gutted for all the boys."
After suffering a 6-2 defeat to England in their opening game, Iran are now well in the race for the knockout stages ahead of their final group clash with USA on Tuesday.
Manager Carlos Queiroz said: "This is just the beginning, but we need to finish the job. [It is] a wonderful day for us.
"All respect to my players, who showed they love to play football. Our players deserve to be supported. We want to play for the fans."