Wales and Iran head into their Group B match at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Friday, knowing victory could give them an important step towards qualifying for the World Cup knockout stages.
After Iran lost to England 6-2 on Monday, Wales came back to claim a well-deserved win over the United States at the end of the day.
Where: Ahmed bin Ali Stadium
When: Friday, November 25, at 1 pm (10:00 GMT)
FIFA ranking: Wales (19), Iran (20)
Leading the way at the World Cup, Wales has been on a lousy run in the UEFA Nations League. However, that came soon after their dramatic World Cup qualifying campaign in which they lost just one game in 10 – and that was against Belgium, one of the favorites to lift the trophy in Doha on December 18.
So what does that tell us? When kept in shape and injury-free, the Welsh trio of Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, and Joe Allen can make it more challenging for opposing teams.
Hosseini has already encountered a daunting opponent in Qatar, taking over when Beiranvand was stretchered off in the first half of the tournament-opening defeat on Monday before England had opened the scoring. Beiranvand was allowed to keep playing by Iran’s training staff after a collision with a teammate, but later tumbled to the field and was taken to a local hospital.
Iran has not commented on his status, except to say that he had a nose injury, he was back with the team and he had some tests.
Allen continues to slog on in Swansea – where he injured his hamstring less than a month ago. Meanwhile, Ramsey, who picked up a hamstring injury in September, and Bale, who also had a recent leg injury, have traded in the rugged mountains and valleys of Wales for the warmer climes of Nice and Los Angeles – where they both struggle to get game time.
The Welsh reliance on its experienced stars was on show in the team’s opening game of the World Cup, where a late Bates penalty ensured they got a point through a draw against the United States.
On the other hand, Iran wants to make a round of 16 appearances for the first time at a World Cup. And this match is key to those hopes after Team Melli – as they are considered– was trounced 6-2 by England in their World Cup opener. Taremi will be leading Iran’s front line, alongside Alireza Jahanbakhsh of Feyenoord Rotterdam and Sardar Azmoun from Bayer Leverkusen. Azmoun was reportedly injured while playing for Leverkusen in early October but is set to play in Qatar.
In the two matches since Iran’s Coach Carlos Queiroz has been reinstated, the team has played a 4-1-4-1 defensive formation with a floating player ahead of the defenders, letting the midfield press further up the pitch. On the forward side, they have decided to switch to 4-3-3. This flexible formation and counterattack give Team Melli the same style of play as the Dragons – the nom de guerre of the Welsh side.
Wales’s possible starting lineup:
Hennessey; Mepham, Rodon, Davies; Roberts, Ramsey, Ampadu, Williams; James, Bale; Moore
Iran’s possible starting lineup:
H. Hosseini; Moharrami, Pouraliganji, Cheshmi, M. Hosseini, Mohammadi; Jahanbakhsh, Noorollahi, Karimi, Gholizadeh; Taremi
Wales 3-1 Iran