End of the dragon: Wales World Cup hopes hanging by a thread after shock 2-0 defeat by Iran

25 November 2022, 12:07 | Updated: 25 November 2022, 13:02

Wales face World Cup exit after shock defeat by Iran
Wales face World Cup exit after shock defeat by Iran. Picture: Alamy

By Stephen Rigley

Wales are on the brink of World Cup elimination after two injury time goals from Iran condemned them to a 2-0 defeat.

Gareth Bale's side will now have to beat England in a battle of Britain to have any chance of progressing in the tournament.

And they will need to do it without their first choice goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey who was sent off for a kung fu kick on an Iranian striker five minutes before the end of the game.

After their 1-1 draw with the USA on Monday, Wales were chasing a historic first World Cup victory in 64 years that would take them a significant step closer to progressing from the group stage. Their final match comes against England on Tuesday.

Despite being roared on by 5,000 Welsh fans inside the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Wales were lucky not to be behind after struggling in the first half and actually had a goal against them disallowed for offside. 

Shortly after half-time it was hearts in mouth again as Iran struck both posts within seconds of each other.

Then five minutes from the end of the game veteran goalkeeper Hennessey was shown a straight red card as he rushed off his line to intercept a long pass.

And injury time goals from Rouzbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian secured a two-goal win for Iran, leaving Wales with just a single point from their first two Group B games.

Wales players gutted after losing World Cup game against Iran
Wales players gutted after losing World Cup game against Iran. Picture: Getty
Welsh goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey is sent off for this challenge five minutes from the end of the match
Welsh goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey is sent off for this challenge five minutes from the end of the match. Picture: Getty
Wayne Hennessey is shown the red card
Wayne Hennessey is shown the red card. Picture: Getty

Read More: Wales wears rainbow sleeve while warming up for World Cup game against Iran - but takes it off for the match

Read More: Fifa lifts ban on rainbow clothes and flags for future World Cup games in major u-turn

Whatever happens between England and the United States later, Wales must beat Gareth Southgate's team to progress .

Before the game Bale's side wore rainbow shirts during their-warmup as the row over Qatar's human right's record which has overshadowed the tournament fails to die down.

Captain Bale led the way as all 26 players wore a white top with multi-coloured stripes running down each shoulder pre-match but these were not worn during the game.

FIFA threatened a number of European nations with sporting sanctions if captains went ahead with plans to wear the OneLove armband during their opening games.

Prior to kick-off, thousands of Welsh fans belted out their national anthem and the Iranian fans jeered their own - in solidarity with protesters back home in Iran.

Iran's players, though, appeared to back down from their protest following pressure from the Islamic regime. Their previous refusal to sing was a show of solidarity with protesters in their home country, hundreds of whom have been killed in clashes with government security services over the death of Mahsa Amini – a woman who died in custody after being arrested by the Tehran's morality police.

But many Iranian fans in the stands still displayed slogans supporting the protests on Friday, drawing particular attention to human rights issues and the plight of women.

England will play the US in the other Group B match today, but fans dressed as Crusaders have been turned away from World Cup matches in Qatar as their costumes are 'offensive to Muslims'.

As Welsh fans were seen packing out the pubs this morning despite the midweek morning kick-off, Britons are enjoying a festival of World Cup football as England also play this evening.

Football-mad workers in the UK have been throwing 'sickies' at record rates so they can watch World Cup matches, employers are claiming.

Businesses have been flocking to legal advisers amid concerns staff are taking rogue days off, with today unlikely to be any different give the magnitude of the two matches.

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