This is a tough game to call, only because I don’t suggest reading too much into the first game. Iran is playing against the backdrop of protest and unrest…Wales probably needed to get their first game under the belt and move on from there…
To Win Match
Wales 11/10 | Draw 43/20 | Iran 28/10
Wales played in their first FIFA World Cup fixture for more than 50 years when they entertained the USA to a 1-1 draw. There is simply no comparison for the sort of pressure or nervousness those players would have likely experienced. The World Cup will and always be the greatest stage of them all!
It’s for that reason I suggest not reading too much into their fixture with the USA. They were cagey out of the blocks and took a while to get going. I thought the Welsh chased the game for a bit before settling down and then showing their own capabilities.
In Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, Wales have a serious goalscoring threat – that we simply cannot deny. Their defence is packed with experience and solidified by a goalkeeper who is experience personified. Robert Page is seemingly a coach who has priority around structure, and I think Wales can ask questions of this group.
I couldn’t help but notice that Iran’s players refused to sing their national anthem. I know not every player in every team belts out their tune of choice – but I found that a little strange. Of course, we now know the reason was a protest, standing in solidarity with those who are oppressed or silenced in Iran.
Iran was impressive in qualifying, winning eight of the 10 games amongst the Asian qualifiers. They aren’t a slouch irrespective of their game against England. Of course, their preparation was less than ideal when they were to replace their coach with Carlos Queiroz.
Now, the only reason I say ‘less than ideal’ is that he was not involved in the early preparation…because outside of that he is a massively experienced coach and one who isn’t new to the big stage.
For a side who aren’t exactly known for shots on goal (they hold the record for the least shots on target between 2014 and 2018) they now hold aces upfront.
Mehdi Taremi has torn up the script for Porto in the Champions League and is responsible for both goals against England. He might singlehandedly earn his country a result here.
Verdict: Iran/Draw (13/20)
This is a bit of an ‘outside’ or ‘value’ prediction – I will admit. However, my reason for the pick is simply this; Wales aren’t a side who will be aggressive in trying to dominate possession of the football, they will be happy to defend should they need to and commit to going forward when they can – granted I am simplifying it here.
Iran showed quality when they could hold possession of the football for extended periods and as I’ve previously indicated, they certainly can hurt you on the other side of the field.