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In Focus: Five key talking points from Wales 0-2 Iran
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Matthew Storey
Ramin Rezaeian netted Iran's second goal against Wales
Ramin Rezaeian netted Iran's second goal against Wales

Wales’ World Cup dreams are in tatters after Iran struck twice in stoppage time to earn a fully-deserved 2-0 win in Qatar.

The 10 men of Wales looked to have hung on for a crucial point despite being second best throughout in the hot temperatures, with goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey sent off on 86 minutes.

But Rouzbeh Cheshmi struck from range in the eighth minute of added time to send the Iran fans into raptures, before Ramin Rezaeian doubled their lead three minutes later on the counter-attack.

Here are the talking points on a heartbreaking day for the Welsh.

A sombre anthem

Keeping politics out of football is not an option at this World Cup — and the Iranian national anthem was proof of that.

After not singing it against England, Iran’s starting XI mumbled their way through the pre-match ritual before kick-off, seemingly reluctantly to do so.

Just like against England, the fans in the crowd whistled as the country grapples with protests against the government back home.

The sight of a middle-aged Iranian man in tears was quickly followed by a woman crying in a moving prelude to the game.

The real Iran show up

Iran's players go wild after finally finding the breakthrough against Wales
Iran's players go wild after finally finding the breakthrough against Wales

After freezing against England, Iran showed both their quality and their mettle against the Welsh.

Off the ball they were niggly, happy to leave their mark on their opposition and fly into some late tackles.

When they had possession, they attacked quickly and showed the technical ability that they have.

They were sharper than the Welsh with the ball and created plenty of opportunities as Carlos Queiroz implemented a near-perfect game plan.

Though the goals came late, there was little doubting that this was a fair result.

From hero to zero

Hennessey would have been named Wales’ Man of the Match before the closing stages, but his red card may have cost his country their World Cup place.

He had proved a rock at the back, denying Sardar Azmoun from close range after Iran had hit the post twice in quick succession, while also producing a fine full-stretch save to keep out Saeid Ezatolahi.

He did not need to race out of his box and try to get to the long ball over the top ahead of Mehdi Taremi, with the quick Neco Williams on the cover.

That he did and clattered into the striker gave the referee little choice but to send him off — and it left an already under pressure Welsh side with too much to do.

Step too far for Ramsey

So much Welsh success in the past six years has relied on Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey — their only two world-class players.

This tournament has been a step too far for Ramsey though.

He was a passenger in midfield, unable to get up and down the pitch like he used to and not showing enough quality when he did get on the ball.

Playing alongside Ethan Ampadu and Harry Wilson, the lack of any real structure in the middle was something Iran exploited throughout.

This looks like a sad end to a superb international career for the 31-year-old.

Wales' players were stunned after Iran's late show
Wales' players were stunned after Iran's late show

Undercooked stars

Unfortunately for Wales, not all of their players are regular starters for their club and it looked like they lacked fitness in the heat.

Two games in five days is a big ask when you are not playing week-in, week-out and while Iran looked to grow in stature, Rob Page's men did the opposite.

After the game, ex-Wales striker Iwan Roberts said: "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."

There is still a route to the knockout stages for the Dragons, but it requires results going their way and victory over England, which on this showing looks highly unlikely.

Iran, on the other hand, will be dreaming of qualifying for the knockout stages for the very first time.


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