Wales’ World Cup hopes hanging by a thread after crushing late defeat to Iran

Wales’ hopes of reaching the World Cup knockout stages were dented by a 2-0 defeat by Iran.

Substitutes Rosbeh Çeşme and Rezaian Ramin scored in stoppage time to seal Iran’s third FIFA World Cup™ victory and the one they deserved at the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium in Doha.

Robert Page’s players called this match a must-win after the draw against the United States, but Wales were second all-time and lost goalkeeper Wayne Hennessy to a red card in the closing stages.

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Wales’ Gareth Bale looks frustrated at the final whistle (Nick Potts/Penn)

Wales will now have to beat England in their final group match on Tuesday to reach the last 16, something they have not achieved since 1984.

Skipper Gareth Bale became the most capped Wales men’s player in his own right by winning the number 110 jersey, overtaking Chris Gunter who was among the substitutes.

The 1pm local start meant it was around 30C when kick-off, conditions that suit Iran – one place below Wales in the world rankings – more.

Wales made just one change from the side that drew 1-1 with the USA in their first World Cup match in 64 years.

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Kiefer Moore, who sparked a Wales revival in the second half after introducing in the first half, replaced Daniel James as Page fought back the opportunity to start Joe Allen after a hamstring problem.

Iran’s goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, who was injured against England, was absent due to FIFA protocols for concussion and was replaced by Hossein Hosseini.

Hosseini was unconvincing in England’s 6-2 victory and Moore had promised to punish Iran Air.

Keefer Moore of Wales said it would affect Iran's defence

Kiefer Moore of Wales said it would affect Iran’s defence. (Adam Davy/PA)

Iran’s players failed to sing their national anthem in the opening match of the World Cup, sparking headlines around the world.

Their silence was seen as a show of unity in the mass anti-government protests in their country. Some of the players sang the national anthem this time, although many Iranian fans seemed to mock it.

Moore was initially as good as his word to win with an early header that set up Neco Williams for a shot chance.

The Bournemouth man also stretched to Connor Roberts’ cross in the 12th minute, turned it straight into Hosseini and picked the wayward Iranian boot in the face for his troubles.

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But this was a different Iran than the one that had been shy in front of England from the start.

Sardar Azmoun fired his shot straight at Hennessey and their tenacity and dynamism in the transition almost resulted in the first goal.

Roberts’ careless pass was caught across the field and Azmoun and Ali Gholizadeh worked the space to score the latter.

But Golizadeh took the last pass for offside and a VAR check prevented Wales from falling behind.

Bell, a passer in the opening half hour, ambitiously tried his luck from a distance and Harry Wilson saw his skewed effort finished.

The biggest threat came from Iran, though Azmoun charged wide before the Bayer Leverkusen striker was inches away from making contact with Saeed Ezzatullah’s superb pass.

Hennessey carried Ahmed Nurallah’s effort in the first half and Wales were relieved to reach break level.

Wales got a huge double as Iran kicked off the second half after finishing the first.

Azmoun broke the whoop to shake the woodwork and in the same attack Golizadeh hit a fine effort on Hennessey’s other post.

Page sent James and Brennan Johnson for Roberts and Wilson and went to change the system to a back four in an attempt to change the momentum of the competition.

But Hennessey came to the rescue by tiptoing Izzatullah’s low run which was heading for the bottom corner of his grid.

Allen went in for the final push and Hosseini beat a Ben Davies goal, but Wales were reduced to 10 men four minutes from time when Hennessy lunged from his box and fell on Tarme.

Guatemalan referee Mario Escobar initially called the card yellow before upgrading it to red after a VAR check.

Iran capitalized on their individual play advantage as Çeşme pounced on Allen’s weak clearance to fire home from 20 yards before Ramin rubbed salt on the Welsh injuries with a fine volley past substitute goalkeeper Danny Ward.

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