In the spotlight: five key talking points from Wales 0-2 Iran

Wales’ World Cup dreams lie in tatters after Iran scored twice in added time in a well-deserved 2-0 win in Qatar.

The Wales 10 seemed to have held onto a crucial point despite being consistently second best in the hot temperatures when goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was sent off in the 86th minute.

But Rouzbeh Cheshmi scored from long range in the eighth minute of added time and had the Iran fans in raptures before Ramin Rezaeian doubled the lead with a counterattack three minutes later.

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

A dark anthem

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

After failing to sing it against England, the Iranian starting XI muttered through the pre-game ritual before kick-off, seemingly reluctantly.

Just like against England, fans whistled in the crowd as the country grappled with anti-government protests at home.

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

The real Iran emerges

Iran's players are furious after finally breaking through against Wales
Iran’s players are furious after finally breaking through against Wales

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

Off the ball they were fussy, happy to leave their mark on their opponent and get caught in some late tackles.

Once they had possession, they attacked quickly and showed their technical ability.

Better than the Welsh on the ball, they created many chances while Carlos Queiroz executed a near-perfect game plan.

Although the goals came late, there was little doubt that this was a fair result.

From Hero to Zero

Hennessey would have been crowned Wales’ Man of the Match before the closing stages but his red card could have cost his country a World Cup spot.

He had proved rock solid in defence, parrying Sardar Azmoun from close range after Iran hit the post twice in quick succession while also making a nice full-throttle save to keep Saeid Ezatolahi away.

He didn’t have to run out of his box and try to get the long ball over the top in front of Mehdi Taremi, with the speedy Neco Williams on the cover.

That he did and clattered into the striker left the referee with no choice but to send him off – and it left an already-pressured Welsh side too much to do.

Go too far for Ramsey

So much Welsh success over the last six years has rested on Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey – their only two world-class players.

However, this tournament was a step too far for Ramsey.

He was a midfield passenger, couldn’t pace the pitch like he used to and didn’t show enough quality when he got the ball.

Alongside Ethan Ampadu and Harry Wilson, Iran consistently played up the lack of any real structure down the middle.

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

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

Uncooked Stars

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

Two games in five days is a tall order unless you play week in and week out, and while Iran appeared to be gaining stature, Rob Page’s men were doing the opposite.

After the game, ex-Wales striker Iwan Roberts said: “The thing for Wales is our fitness. Not enough of our players play 90 minutes regularly. Not enough energy, no one looked fresh. You can get a few players through this, but not five or six.

“We were lucky against the USA. We lost to the better side, no question. They were fitter, more confident, sharper. We can’t complain about that result at all.”

There is still a way for the Dragons to reach the knockout stages, but it will require results pointing in the right direction and a win over England, which given these results looks highly unlikely.

Iran, on the other hand, dreams of qualifying for the knockout stages for the first time ever.


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