The goals which crushed Wales came desperately late and left Gareth Bale standing on the pitch, hands on hips, face crimson with effort, bewildered by a situation from which even he could provide no rescue. But it had been coming.
For once, a golden generation of players who have helped this nation to touch the heights could not provide the alchemy. So now it is Iran, beset by national catastrophe and annihilated by England four days ago, contemplating the knock-out stages for the first time in their history.
Mathematically, Wales are just about still here, though it is over. They require the USA to beat England and Iran and will also need to beat an English side which has just thumped Iran 6-2. The loss of Wayne Hennessey to a red card was only the beginning of a calamity, as Rouzbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian scored in the 92nd and 98th minute.
Contrasting emotions were clear as Iran scored two goals deep into stoppage time to leave Wales floored at the World Cup
Iran celebrate the late smash and grab win against 10-man Wales that keeps alive their hopes of making the round of 16
The game’s crucial moment came when Wales keeper Wayne Hennessey rushed out and clattered into Mehdi Taremi
Initially shown only a yellow card, a check of the VAR replays saw referee Mario Escobar upgrade that to a sending off
Gareth Bale consoles his team-mate Joe Rodon after a heart-breaking defeat that leaves Wales hanging on by a thread
Carlos Queiroz is hoisted high by Iranian players following a victory that blows group B wide open and boosts their chances
It had all seemed so different as Wales set out and the anthems told contrasting stories of two nations. The band played Wales’ too fast but the vast Red Wall set their own tempo all the same. Iranian supporters wept as theirs was played – with grief, it seemed – and the white-shirted players looked like they were going through the motions of mumbling the words.
Even the light warm-up left Bale red-faced with effort at the end of a week in which the hotel golf simulator had been too much for his back.
What transpired then laid bare how the two jewels of this Welsh generation – he and Aaron Ramsey – are two men now raging against the dying of the light. They were bystanders, exchanging words occasionally. Totemic individuals for whom the others operated like worker bees to carve out a sliver of opportunity for them to demonstrate their genius.
Bale, not so isolated as against the USA, drove down the byline to win a free-kick, in a position of jeopardy with the big Kieffer Moore in the six-yard box. But this was a pale imitation of the glorious summer of 2016 when those two gladiators took this nation to such incredible places.
The workers’ contribution around them was certainly not negligible in the first-half.
Rouzbeh Cheshmi curls home Iran’s 99th-minute opener from just outside the penalty box as the deadlock is broken
Cheshmi runs away with Mehdi Torabi to celebrate Iran’s breakthrough goal deep in stoppage time as Wales finally crumbled
Ramin Rezaeian broke clear two minutes late to seal Wales’ fate as Iran doubled their advantage deep into stoppage time
Wales (3-5-2): Hennessey; Mepham, Rodon, Davies; Roberts (Johnson 57), Ramsey (Ramsey 87), Ampadu (Allen 77), Wilson (James 58), Williams; Bale (c), Moore
Manager: Robert Page
Sent off: Hennessey 86
Iran (4-4-1-1): H. Hosseini; Rezaeian, M. Hosseini, Pouraliganji, Mohammadi; Gholizadeh (Jahanbakhsh 77), Afagh, Nourollahi (Cheshmi 78), Hajsafi (Torabi 77); Taremi, Azmoun (Ansarifard 68)
Manager: Carlos Queiroz
Scorers: Cheshmi 90+8; Rezaeian 90+11
Booked: Rezaeian, Jahanbakhsh
Referee: Mario Escobar (Guatemala)
The reinstatement of Kieffer Moore, target man and central focus, made an immediate difference. He had looked tense in the tunnel, touching the wall before he walked out last.
But Ethan Ampadu, the man with the monumental and unenviable task of anchoring midfield while Ramsey roamed freely, had lifted two balls to him in the first 90 seconds alone.
For 45 minutes, Wales broke the defensive lines in a way that had not done four days ago. They worked the diagonal, drilling 30-yard passes, wing-to-wing. They might have taken a lead, had Neco Williams not squandered the chance when Harry Wilson located him in space on the left side of the Iranian box. A very big moment.
But though Wales’ 64 per cent first half possession suggested domination, it was anything but. Lacking anyone to anchor midfield adequately, there was an enormous vulnerability to the team, every time they conceded possession, and Iran flooded into the vast vacant space.
VAR saved Wales on the first occasion, when Connor Roberts’ loose ball was collected by Sardar Azmoun who threaded in Ali Gholizadeh, half a body’s width offside as he ran the ball past Hennessey.
Wales were a miscued pass away from catastrophe and the Red Wall – pensive and subdued – knew it. It’s why Page has been so desperate for the controlling presence of Joe Allen, a player predictably deemed unfit to start.
The treacherous path Wales trod was even more evident after half time, when Azmoun, the Bayer Leverkusen forward, broke away and struck the right post. From the rebound Gholizadeh wound a shot against the opposite post. Carlos Queiroz’s side were flying.
Wales could not relent in their own pursuit of a goal, with England up ahead. Dan James, who had started Wales’ last 35 competitive matches, and Brennan Johnson were introduce to provide some desperately needed zip before the hour mark.
But as so often these past 12 months, Wales were looking to conjure sublime something out of rank mediocrity. Bale ran into the channels with his arm aloft. James did not find him.
Ramsey held out his hands in frustration when a ball he navigated out of his own box went nowhere. Moore could not bring an impact and there was no aerial delivery from Wales to help him.
Iran’s Sardar Azmoun had earlier struck the woodwork after he broke through as Wales found themselves on the back foot
Azmoun was a constant thorn in the side of the Welsh defence and saw his effort crash back off the upright in the second-half
Iran had the ball in the net during the first-half through Ali Gholizadeh but celebrations were cut short by an offside flag
Iran celebrate their goal in the first half but it was quickly ruled out for offside as Wales retained parity in the contest
It took a save of the highest order from Hennessey – diving low to his right and diverting Saeid Ezatolahi’s around his right post – just to keep Wales’ flickering hopes alive, before Allen, who will surely be fundamental to coping with England, arrived 15 minutes from time.
And then, the unravelling. Another breakaway forced Hennessey to bring down striker Mehdi Taremi and receive a red card for dangerous play after the incident went to the VAR officials. No complaints. Hennessey’s knee was close to Taremi’s head.
With a draw still likely to leave Wales needing to beat England, they continued to press and were killed off by their do or die. A right-foot thunderbolt by substitute Cheshmi, as Allen tried to close him down, was followed by Rezaeian’s dink over replacement keeper Danny Ward.
‘It’s gutting. We fought to the last second,’ Bale reflected. But for once, that just wasn’t enough.
RE-LIVE HOW THE MATCH UNFOLDED WITH ADAM SHERGOLD’S LIVE BLOG
You know the drill by now… one game finishes and then another follows pretty much straight on. It’s the host nation, Qatar, taking on Senegal and you can follow it with us by clicking the link underneath.
It has to be said that Iran were good value for that win today. Even before Wales were reduced to 10 men after Wayne Hennessey rushed out, they were having to withstand a barrage of Iranian pressure.
It just didn’t really click going forward for Wales today, chances were at a real premium.
That defeat leaves Wales bottom of Group B with just one point from two games.
Iran’s win has really blown the group wide open and certainly piled the pressure on the United States to get something against England later on.
It’s not what Wales wanted… they fall short here in their heroic efforts to see out a goalless draw with just 10 men, conceding two stoppage time goals.
They’re going to have to beat England now in that last group game on Tuesday to remain in the World Cup.
That’ll do it now… Wales will be left hanging on and needing to beat England in their last game to stay alive in the World Cup.
Ramin Rezaeian rounds it off for Iran, lovely little dinked finish after they broke upfield with so much space to play with as Wales committed men forward.
What a heartbreaker for Wales!
Iran look to have snatched victory right at the death, in the ninth minute of injury time. Fair play, it’s a cracking finish by Rouzbeh Cheshmi but that will mean little for Wales.
They attacked down the left and the initial cross was only half cleared. It came out to Cheshmi, about 25 yards out and he had little to aim at but swept his curling shot into the far corner.
Absolutely ecstatic celebrations among the Iranian players and fans.
90+5min: Chris Mepham heading the ball away and is caught by a high boot by Jahanbakhsh, who gets a yellow and is the first player to be suspended at this World Cup for two bookings.
90+3min: A daft foul committed and Wales have a free-kick where they can run down the clock a little bit. But they might fancy nicking a winner…
It’s swung in by Davies but claimed easily by the keeper.
90min: NINE added minutes… that comes as no surprise.
87min: Danny Ward comes on as the new keeper and Aaron Ramsey is the man sacrificed.
86min: Nope, as suspected, Hennessey has been shown his marching orders after a check of the VAR replays. It was the correct call I’m afraid.
There may have been some cover but he’s taken out Taremi, making no contact with the ball. It was high boot and dangerous.
85min; Oh, Wayne Hennessey you lucky boy. The Wales keeper charged off his line there as Taremi was set clear by a long pass and clatters him with a raised leg that misses the ball completely.
It’s a yellow card – initially at least. VAR will be consulted.
83min: Vital fingertip save by Hosseini… Ben Davies lets fly from just outside the box after Kieffer Moore lays the ball off. Nudged over the top.
The corner is cleared away.
81min: Now Saeid Ezataolahi is down with cramp and is rolling around theatrically. Morteza Pouraliganji helps him out with the stretching.
This is seriously tense…
79min: Wales manage to get themselves upfield, which has been a rare occurrence in the second-half. Dan James goes to ground and there’s a brief flashpoint. Not a free-kick.
76min: Changes afoot for both sides – Iran bring on three new players – on come Cheshmi, Torabi and Jahanbakhsh.
Meanwhile, Wales bring on Joe Allen for Ethan Ampadu.
73min: Wales under severe pressure now and Hennessey gets down brilliantly in the far corner to push away a shot by Saeid Ezatolahi. They need to hold firm here.
71min: Into the last 20 minutes as Iran swing in a corner that is over-hit. The ball is re-delivered but Hennessey is alert to the danger.
68min: Sardar Azmoun will have to accept defeat here and is being replaced by Karim Ansarifard for the final 20-odd minutes.
67min: An injection of pad by Brennan Johnson, who gets down the right to the byline and tried to get the ball into Gareth Bale. Iran just about do enough to snuff out the danger.
64min: That’s a crucial block by Ampadu, who tracked back to stop Taremi from getting a shot away after he’d weaved his way into the Wales box.
63min: Ethan Ampadu slips over and Iran break to win a corner. It’s not the best delivery and Wayne Hennessey will lap that up.
59min: A pause in play and Iran may be about to lose their most dangerous player here in Sardar Azmoun, who went down clutching his leg. But he is continuing for the time being.
57min: Here come those two changes for Wales in an attempt to change the course of this contest.
Off go Connor Roberts and Harry Wilson, on come Dan James and Brennan Johnson.
55min: Wales try to respond and Kieffer Moore loops a header over the bar.
Now they win a free-kick and load up the box but Harry Wilson’s ball is a poor one and the keeper collects it.
Brennan Williams and Dan James are primed to come on for Wales.
51min: How on earth are Iran not in front?!
Azmoun smacks one post and, literally seconds later, Gholizadeh curls an effort against the other save. Then Hennessey makes a crucial save to keep Wales level to deny Azmoun.
Iran really couldn’t have come much closer than that and Wales are certainly fortunate.
48min: Aaron Ramsey plays a blind pass and Wales are suddenly in trouble as the ball runs loose. It takes an intervention from Chris Mepham to sort things out.
Down the other end, Ramsey tries to get onto the end of a nice floated pass from the back but can’t quite reach it.
47min: We’ve got a stoppage in play with Azmoun, the Iran striker, holding his forearm after taking a blow from Neco Williams. I’m sure he’ll soldier on.
We are back underway in Al Rayyan with Iran kicking us off. Neither coach has made any changes.
What will the next 45 bring?
Wales have struggled to find the killer ball when they get into the final third and chances have been at a premium.
Iran have been the more aggressive side and they look dangerous on the counter though Joe Rodon in particular has restricted their chances.
The second-half should become a bit more open and it will be a case of who steps up to deliver. It’ll certainly be incredibly tense now.
Which Wales player has had the fewest touches in the first half of this #FIFAWorldCup match?
Gareth Bale. pic.twitter.com/DpTumSZD59
Iranian pressure concludes the first half as Wales scramble the ball away and Ahmad Nourollahi produces a dipping volley from range that Hennessey grabs.
And that is the half-time whistle after a fascinating opening 45 minutes. There’s a lot of tension already in what is essentially a must-win for both.
Kieffer Moore with the best chance for Wales but they didn’t have the right ball often enough when in good areas.
Iran had the ball in the net but it was clearly offside and VAR agreed.
45+3min: Trouble for Joe Rodon here as he takes out Mehdi Taremi as the Iran forward skipped past him on the left flank. Definite yellow card and no complaints.
45+2min: A really dangerous cross for Iran there and Azmoun was at full stretch trying to get a telling touch on it. In the end, Rodon, who’s having a key battle with the Iran striker, just about does enough as the ball flashes through.
45min: A rendition of ‘Don’t take me home’ from the Welsh fans in the sun-scorched corner of the ground. Those bucket hats working overtime today.
We pass the 45 minutes mark and we’ll have four minutes added.
42min: That was pretty slick by Wales… Kieffer Moore gets the through ball inside the Iran box and Harry Wilson shoots but it’s blocked and loops away for a corner.
Hosseini, though, is commanding in his six yard box to grab the delivery.
40min: Chris Mepham concedes a free-kick by pulling Azmoun to the floor and Wales with some defending to do with five minutes (plus stoppages of course) to the break.
Ehsan Hajsafi swings it in and that isn’t going to trouble anyone as it bounces through and out of play in front of the Red Wall.
37min: Neco Williams’ touch let him down there after Harry Wilson had picked him out really well with a through pass after Gareth Bale made a smart decoy run into the box.
Iran get defenders across to cover and Wales can’t make a good position count.
35min: Joe Rodon once again being troubled by Azmoun as Iran attempt a long ball in behind him. Did well to put off the striker and Ben Davies came across to deal with the threat.
34min: Not quite happening for Wales with the final pass. Chris Mepham picking the wrong option and overhitting an attempted ball into the box there.
30min: The game continues to be played at a high pace. Harry Wilson tries to slide a through pass into Kieffer Moore inside the Iran box but it’s just about cut out.
The game hanging in a delicate balance at the minute.
28min: Azmoun now down in need of treatment. He has combined really well with Taremi so far in this game. He is back on his feet eventually.
It’s a chance for the players to take on board some much needed water… and some instructions too.
Azmoun returns to the action.
26min: Vital slide tackle by Joe Rodon, who’s really having a ding-dong contest with Sardar Azmoun. He was almost in behind Wales there on the counter but Rodon got across to cover.
25min: Neco Williams is struggling after a challenge by the touchline. Looked like a blow to the knee which can be painful indeed. He’s trying to jog it off.
That's a 𝗺𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗶𝘃𝗲 let off for Wales 😰
Iran look to have taken the lead through Ali Gholizadeh, but VAR rules it out for offside ⚽❌
📺📻📲 Watch on @BBCiPlayer, listen on @BBCSounds & get more on the @BBCSport app#BBCFootball #BBCWorldCup
23min: Azmoun rises highest in a packed penalty area to meet an Iran free-kick, getting above Joe Rodon and goal side too. But he was stretching too far and couldn’t steer the ball towards goal.
19min: Harry Wilson swings in a free-kick from a good position on the right side. The keeper Hosseini comes out and gets a glove to punch it away.
Iran think they’ve taken the lead through Gholizadeh…. But the VAR checks show he was in an offside position when he stuck the ball away.
It was just the last pass of a move that sliced through a Wales defence that had been cut apart.
13min: Moore gets patched up by the Welsh medical team and he looks fine to continue thankfully.
12min: Wales enjoying a spell of possession in an advanced area. Roberts is well advanced and his cross is perfect for Kieffer Moore to reach in the middle. He stretched out his leg but it was straight at the keeper Hosseini and blocked.
But there’s real concern for Wales here as Moore has stayed down. It looked like he got a boot in the face for his troubles, with a cut near his left eye.
7min: Sardar Azmoun with the first shot of the contest for Iran. Lacked power and dribbled into Wayne Hennessey’s gloves from the edge of the Welsh box.
But something to think about as he wasn’t shut down in time.
6min: Iran look to carry a threat as they come forward, whipping up their crowds. A couple of good crosses come in quick succession and Joe Rodon gets up to deal with them.
5min: Ben Davies finds himself a long way forward and feels he was bundled over by Majid Hosseini as he tried to get the ball into the Iran box. The referee didn’t agree with him.
3min: Kieffer Moore involved for the first time as he tries to direct a flick header to a team-mate. Ot doesn’t quite come off but neither does Iran’s attack as the cross is way too long.
Wales on the break and Neco Williams cuts in onto his right boot from the left and decides to take aim. Over the top by the Nottingham Forest man.
Our referee from Guatemala, Mario Escobar, gets the match started with Wales getting us going.
Terrific atmosphere being created by the Iran fans as we begin.
Wales paying in familiar all-red today, Iran are in all-white.
Ear-splitting whistles and jeers from the Iranian fans as their anthem is played.
The players do sing it but let’s just say enthusiasm is lacking. More of a mumble.
The mini ceremony that precedes every game has been concluded and it’s now time for the two teams to emerge from the tunnel at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.
Can Wales make a faster start in this one than against the United States?
Time for the anthems, beginning with the always stirring Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau…
The Red Wall has been assembled in the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium though they’ll have plenty of competition in the singing stakes from the many thousands of Iranian fans who’ve made the considerably shorter journey here.
Warm-ups are complete and the two teams will be emerging into the arena for the game in a matter of minutes.
🏴 Tywysog Cymru 🏴
Llongyfarchiadau! @GarethBale11 has broken the Cymru Men's National Team caps record. #ArBenYByd | #TogetherStronger pic.twitter.com/YsLmaKRdvb
We have just heard from the Wales coach Rob Page on the BBC. Here’s what he had to say:
On selecting Kieffer Moore ahead of Dan James in attack…
After the impact he had against the USA, it was an easy decision to me. He gets us further up the pitch, he is not only a physical presence who keeps the ball well, he is a willing runner. There are lots of attributes to his game.
On this being a must-win game…
No doubt Iran will be doing the same, they will want to react in a positive manner [after losing 6-2 to England]. Both sides will be going out for the win.
On the 31C heat at pitchside…
As much as they say the air conditioning is all around the stadium, it’s still very hot on that pitch. It’s a factor we have to consider.
On Gareth Bale becoming his country’s most-capped player….
He deserves all the plaudits and accolades he is going to get because he has been a fantastic servant for us on and off the pitch. He is a role model for us.
Wales: Hennessey, Mepham, Rodon, Ben Davies, Roberts, Ramsey, Ampadu, Wilson, Neco Williams, Bale, Moore
Substitutes: Gunter, Allen, Johnson, Ward, Morrell, Lockyer, Jonathan Williams, Harris, James, Adam Davies, Thomas, Levitt, Cabango, Colwill, Smith.
Iran: Hossein Hosseini, Rezaeian, Pouraliganji, Majid Hosseini, Mohammadi, Gholizadeh, Noorollahi, Ezatolahi, Hajsafi, Azmoun, Taremi
Substitutes: Beiranvand, Moharrami, Khalilzadeh, Jahanbakhsh, Ansarifard, Amiri, Niazmand, Kanaani, Ghoddos, Cheshmi, Torabi, Karimi, Abedzadeh, Jalali.
There were protests at Iran’s opening game earlier this week, with the players choosing not to sing the country’s national anthem.
It’s a turbulent time in Iran with widespread condemnation of the regime following the death of 22-year-old woman Masha Amini when in the custody of the country’s morality police.
‘Iran women’ flags were prominent at their game with England and it appears from some of the pictures coming in ahead of this game that Iran flags adorned with black crosses are being taken away by security inside the stadium.
Argentina’s match with Poland at Stadium 974 on Wednesday is shaping up like a cup final. Lose and it could be Lionel Messi’s farewell as an international player, his last chance of football’s biggest trophy gone.
It may sound preposterous but he needs to be more like Gareth Bale. This is not a comparison of the pair as footballers. Bale is a great player but we know where Messi sits in the pantheon. All but the very greatest are looking up at him.
Yet Bale has a special ingredient, a way of inserting himself into the narrative at vital moments, regardless of what went before.
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H. Hosseini; Rezaelan, Pouraliganji, M. Hosseini, Mohammadi; Gholizadeh, Nourollahi, Afagh, Hajsafi; Azmoun, Taremi
Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand misses out after being concussed against England and was replaced by Hossein Hosseini.
Scores of Wales fans are set to miss the crucial World Cup match against Iran after a ‘glitch in the system’ has seen them turned away at Dubai airport.
At least 80 Welsh fans have been told they cannot enter Qatar, meaning they will miss today’s match in a situation they’ve described as ‘hellish’.
A ‘glitch in the system’ at Dubai airport has meant that their Hayya cards, which act as Qatar visas, have not been accepted by officials.
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Hennessey; Mepham, Rodon, Davies; Roberts, Ramsey, Ampadu, Wilson, Williams; Bale, Moore
So as many suspected, Kieffer Moore is rewarded for his game-changing performance in the second-half against the United States with a starting spot today. Dan James drops to the bench.
Otherwise, Rob Page’s side are unchanged from Monday.
🏴🇮🇷 CYMRU XI
On or off the pitch, Together we are Stronger! #ArBenYByd | #FIFAWorldCup | #TogetherStronger pic.twitter.com/kFM52YIdiR
They’ve had time to acclimatise a little but that won’t stop the players feeling the heat during today’s game.
It’s a 1pm kick-off time in Al Rayyan and temperatures will be nudging 30C and probably higher at pitch level.
There is a some shade provided by the stands but not masses, so hydration is going to be essential for all concerned.
IAN HERBERT: Rarely, if ever, have questions about protest dominated the preface to a World Cup match quite so much as when Iran and Wales got down to talking about a clash on which so much rests for both countries.
To watch Iran coach Carlos Queiroz confront a BBC Persia journalist who had raised such an issue revealed his veneer of calm on the subject to be tissue thin, despite an impressive, statesmanlike half-hour discussing how his team can put the nightmare of England behind them.
‘Great teams know how to rebound. What is important is the day after and the day after that,’ he said.
Gareth Bale and Rob Page fielded multiple questions about protest, too, and though Wales’ calm and classy defiance of Qatar’s blanket ban on rainbows has left England trailing in their wake, both held fast to a resolve not to create a sideshow or a saga.
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Not too much longer now until we have confirmation of the Wales teams but Kieffer Moore surely has a strong case to start today after his impact off the bench against the US.
Rob Page went with Dan James in attack alongside Gareth Bale but introduced Moore at half-time after going 1-0 down and the more direct approach certainly changed the course of the game.
The Bournemouth forward is certainly a handful for any defence and he could well now be rewarded with a first World Cup start.
A little primer on Wales’ opponents today, courtesy of PA Media.
How did they get to Qatar?
Iran were the first Asian team to seal qualification for this World Cup as they wrapped up progress with three matches to spare and topped Group A ahead of South Korea.
What is their World Cup pedigree?
This is Team Melli’s sixth finals appearances, having made their debut in 1978.
Iran are at their third successive World Cup and aiming to make it out of the group stage for the first time.
Sat 20th in FIFA’s rankings – the highest ranked team in the Asian Football Confederation and one place below Wales – they have won just two of their previous 16 matches at the World Cup.
Who is the coach?
Dragan Skocic led Iran to World Cup qualification but the divisive head coach’s dismissal led to the return of Carlos Queiroz.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s former assistant at Manchester United was in charge of the Asian side at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups during a successful seven-year stint.
Spells at the helm of Colombia and Egypt followed, with the latter’s penalty shootout defeat to Senegal in qualification leaving Queiroz out of work and ready to watch Qatar 2022 from afar. But Iran’s late call means the 69-year-old is managing at the finals for the fourth time.
What is their recent form?
Mehdi Taremi secured Iran an impressive 1-0 friendly win against Uruguay in September, which was followed by a 1-1 draw with fellow World Cup qualifiers Senegal.
Iran also squeezed in a pre-tournament friendly on November 10 against Nicaragua, which they won 1-0, but their defence was ripped apart in their heavy loss to England.
Who is the player to watch?
Porto’s Taremi has impressed on the Champions League stage and scored twice against England, one from the penalty spot.
Taremi could form an exciting front three with ex-Brighton winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Sardar Azmoun, who is nicknamed the ‘Iranian Messi’ but was only used as a substitute against England.
First-choice goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand has been ruled out of the Wales game after breaking his nose and suffering concussion against England.
Beiranvand was pictured training in a mask on Thursday at Iran’s Doha base but Queiroz said: “There is medical protocol we need to respect and there is no way to move around the protocol, so he will not play.”
Back-up goalkeeper Hossein Hosseini, who was unconvincing against England after replacing Beiranvand, will start against Wales.
MATT BARLOW: The pigeon has landed at the World Cup. In theory, it is not the best place for him among the hunting falcons of the Arabian peninsula. Then again, Richarlison has never been too concerned about perfection.
If he were, he would never embrace his nickname ‘Pombo’, Portuguese for the much-maligned bird. He is happy to poke fun at his own beaky features and peculiar gait, and Brazil are learning to love him for that.
Just as they do at Tottenham. Where they consider Richarlison genuine, determined and selfless. He works for his team. And his coaches and teammates have always adored him. Popular opinion in Brazil called for Rodrygo, Antony or Gabriel Jesus to start up front rather than him.
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Gareth Bale will make history by becoming his country’s most capped men’s footballer against Iran.
The 33-year-old captain – who made his debut in 2006 and is Wales’ record scorer with 41 goals – will win his 110th cap against Iran.
It will see him overtake Chris Gunter, who will be among the substitutes for Friday’s encounter, and move him into top spot in his own right.
Bale said: “I haven’t really been focusing on the cap thing to be honest, just trying to focus on the game.
“On a personal level it’s an amazing achievement, it’s an honour to represent my country so many times.
“But it’s more important that we try and get the victory. Hopefully we can and it’ll make it even more special.”
DOMINIC KING: It was always going to be about him. Even if it had been 90 minutes of unrelenting tedium, with no shots and no goals, he would have been the focus after what, by his own inimitable standards, has been an extraordinary week.
But, this being Cristiano Ronaldo, there was always going to be a way he would wrestle the agenda away from off-field dramas and what better way to do it than by setting a record that might not be broken. Those words are not used lightly.
Bounced out of Old Trafford on Tuesday in a blaze of acrimony, Ronaldo became the first man in history to score at five World Cups. A run that started in Frankfurt in 2006 with a second half penalty against Iran was extended, with fitting symmetry, in Doha with a second half penalty against Ghana.
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Oddly enough, Wales are playing all three of their group games at the same venue – the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan.
Located 20km west of Doha, the ground was originally opened in 2003 and has been redeveloped for the tournament with a capacity of 40,000.
Or so we thought until the attendance for the Wales vs USA game was announced as 43,418.
The ground is home to Al-Rayyan Sports Club and Al-Kharitiyath Sports Club.
It will host seven games during the World Cup.
Some Wales supporters wearing rainbow-coloured bucket hats in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community – which is persecuted in Qatar – had them confiscated at their game with the United States earlier in the week.
However, the FA of Wales have said that won’t happen at the game today after talks with FIFA.
In response to the FAW, FIFA has confirmed that fans with Rainbow Wall bucket hats and rainbow flags will be allowed entry to the stadium for @Cymru’s match against Iran on Friday.
All World Cup venues have been contacted and instructed to follow the agreed rules & regulations. pic.twitter.com/9XRlx98V6h
The sheer quantity of stoppage time being added on by referees at this World Cup has become a point of conversation – and amusement.
The new FIFA edict to add all ‘unnatural lost time’ (nice and vague, that one) has led to an average match length so far of 102 minutes and 42 seconds.
England’s win over Iran lasted a staggering 117 minutes!
However, as MATT HUGHES explains in the story below, this isn’t something we’ll be seeing in the Premier League when it resumes.
ROB DRAPER: When football historians review this World Cup, it may well be remembered as the tournament that presided the last rites over a generation of great players.
Leo Messi’s fate remains unclear and here Luis Suarez, English anti-hero outside of Liverpool, looked a player on his last legs.
His stats from this game were zero shots, zero chances created, two touches in the opposition box and seven passes. One of those was kick off. He had 18 touches and won a single duel.
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Here’s how the table looks ahead of the second round of matches today.
England surged to the top with that 6-2 win over Iran on Monday, with Wales and the United States below them with a point apiece following their 1-1 draw.
Now, if Wales can beat Iran here and move onto four points, they’ll be in a strong position if England beat the United States tonight. A one-sided win would be handy too, boosting the goal difference.
That would mean Wales play an already-qualified England in the final group game on Tuesday, possibly allowing Gareth Southgate to rotate his squad and making life a bit easier.
So be in no doubt this is a pivotal game for Wales.
IAN HERBERT: Iran manager Carlos Queiroz confronted a BBC journalist who asked about the protests in the country – and demanded to know why she didn’t ask England boss Gareth Southgate about British policy in Afghanistan.
Queiroz was incensed that BBC Persia reporter Shaimaa Khalil asked striker Mehdi Taremi about the protests sparked by the death of young woman Mahsa Amini in the country, at a press conference before the national team’s match against Wales on Friday.
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During the #Iran team presser I asked @MehdiTaremi9 what his message was to the protesters back home. He declined to answer. At end, the team’s manager @Carlos_Queiroz confronted me asking if it was fair to put a political question to the Iranian player … pic.twitter.com/EmPBrMZKAD
One distinct memory I have of primary school was when our class got to watch England’s opening match of the 1998 World Cup against Tunisia, with the TV wheeled into the dining room.
I’d hope school TVs have come a long way since then but Gareth Bale has urged teachers the length and breadth of Wales to give kids the same opportunity today.
With the game kicking off at 10am, Bale said he hopes classes will be tuning in during lessons after the Welsh Government gave the green light for it.
Bale said: “Being a 10am kick-off in Wales, if I was one of the teachers, I’d let them watch the game.
“I hope they do. It’s a historical moment in Wales, for us to be at a World Cup.
“Some of the parents of kids I know all want to watch the game but don’t want to take them off school.
“So I think a lot of schools will put the game on for them to cheer us on and get behind us.
“It’s a mini history lesson, and hopefully it’ll be a great occasion for all of them.”
JAMES ST DENIS: Breel Embolo scored the only goal as Switzerland’s World Cup campaign got off to a winning start in Group G after defeating Cameroon 1-0.
Embolo’s second half strike was enough to secure victory for the Swiss, as they moved to top of Group G with Brazil and Serbia yet to play.
Cameroon’s first World Cup since 2014 started the same way their last finals appearance ended, in defeat, and they now sit bottom of the group.
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There was some good news for Wales on the eve of this game with midfielder Joe Allen passed fit to play having been sidelined since September with a hamstring injury.
The Swansea City man, who has 72 caps for his country, is likely to be on the bench today given his lack of match fitness.
‘Joe got through his fitness test, so that’s good news. He’s fit and raring to go,’ said Wales coach Rob Page.
‘We were all concerned about him because of the extent of the injury.
‘He kept breaking down. We had to meet targets along the way and they’ve met every target. Last week they pushed him to 100 per cent. It was a gamble.’
Have you got yourself into the World Cup rhythm yet? Four matches a day, wall-to-wall football from dawn until dusk and beyond…
To be honest, it’s a bit of a challenge even for the most dedicated couch potatoes but on we go and there’s another quartet of games today.
Basically, we’ve done one full rotation of the eight groups and have witnessed all 32 of the teams involved now.
On to the second round of matches today as we reset to Groups A and B.
First up, it’s our featured game here from Group B as Wales play Iran. That’s a 1pm kick-off local time in Qatar, or 10am in the United Kingdom.
After that, a Group A double-header as hosts Qatar take on Senegal at 1pm UK time and the Netherlands play Ecuador at 4pm.
To cap it all off, England play the United States tonight at 7pm in today’s other Group B match.
Today could well be a momentous one for Welsh football as the team seeks its first win at a World Cup finals in 64 years.
Rob Page’s side know they have every chance of achieving that against an Iran team smashed for six by England in their opening game on Monday.
Get the three points and Wales could easily be bound for the last-16, particularly if the United States lose to England later on.
But there can be no room for complacency – it took a battling performance and that late Gareth Bale penalty – already an iconic moment – to take a deserved draw against the US.
Wales can build on the optimism that goal generated, however, and gain a priceless win here.
Welcome to our live coverage of Wales vs Iran as the second round of group games gets underway out in Qatar!
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group