Spirited Wales eye win over Iran in Cup

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After scoring a crucial point in their World Cup opener against the United States, Wales return to the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on Friday knowing that a victory over Iran would put them in a position to strength to reach the knockout stage.

Wales drew 1-1 with the United States on Monday in their first World Cup match for 64 years after captain Gareth Bale saved the side with a late penalty.

The Welsh are tied for second with the United States in Group B on one point, with England leading the group on three points after beating bottom-runners Iran 6-2 in the opener.

Wales’ draw was the result of a change in tactics from coach Rob Page at half-time as he introduced target man Kieffer Moore, who changed the game and got them back in the competition after trailing in the first half.

“Lessons have been learned,” Page said. “It was important not to lose the game.

“We have the strength in depth. I can look over my shoulder to the bench and we have players who can come in and have a real impact on games.”

Wales will face a challenge against Iran, whose Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz will expect a turnaround from his players after limping through a heavy defeat.

Page, however, said he will have to deal with fitness issues in his squad ahead of Friday’s game.

“Before playing Iran, the medical team will have some work to do. We have players who don’t play week after week, they have cramps,” he said.

“We have tired bodies in there so we have to get a team ready to go back on Friday.”

Wales have only faced Iran once, beating them 1-0 in a friendly in 1978.

Iran manager Queiroz will be sweating the fitness of goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand after he was substituted early in their opener against England after sustaining a nose injury.

Beiranvand collided horribly with team-mate Hosseini Majid as he tried to face a cross and spent several minutes knocked on the turf seeking treatment.

Iran also faces problems off the pitch.

Fans accused the team of rallying to a state crackdown on unrest in Iran in which activists said more than 400 people had been killed.

But the players chose not to sing their country’s anthem ahead of their game against England in an apparent show of support for protesters at home.

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