The Wales side of 2022, the first to reach a World Cup since the boys of 1958, is a team of many admirable qualities. They are organised, driven, resilient and endlessly competitive. What they are not, though, is a great goalscoring unit. As the pressure rises in World Cup Group B, that is suddenly threatening to become a problem.
With England thrashing Iran in the opening game, and Wales drawing with the United States, there is now a real possibility that second place in the group will be determined by goal difference. For the US and Wales, assuming they both lose to England, it could come down to whichever team can smash the most goals past Iran.
From a Welsh perspective, it might sound presumptive to be thinking about the margin of victory, rather than the sheer fact of victory itself. Such sentiments could age awfully if Iran rediscover their form. But on the evidence of Iran’s performance against England, when they lost 6-2, Wales have every reason to feel confident of securing three points.
The question now is whether Rob Page is willing to unleash his attacking players, at the potential cost of his defensive structure, and whether Wales can discover a level of decisiveness in the final third that has generally eluded them in recent years. “We need to be clinical,” said Gareth Bale on Thursday.
When is the Wales vs Iran match?
The match between Wales and Iran takes place at 1pm UK time on Friday, November 25. (This will be 1pm in Qatar and 5am EST).
Television coverage starts on BBC One at 9.15am UK time with commentary by Steve Bower and Danny Gabbidon. It will also be possible to live stream the action from BBC iPlayer for anyone hoping to watch from a tablet or mobile.
Following the match, fans will also be able to rewatch all the highlights on the iPlayer and the BBC Sport website.
Latest team news
A more attacking lineup, in terms of personnel at least, is certainly possible. Wales started their opening match against the US with Moore and Brennan Johnson on the bench. If they switched to a back four against Iran, it is more than feasible that both of those players could start on Friday. Both look ready to make a major impact, having impressed as substitutes on Monday.
Page, though, seems unwilling to mess with his usual system. The bigger decision for him is whether to reintroduce Joe Allen into the preferred 3-4-3 formation, now that the midfielder has been declared ready. Allen has not played since September but Page insisted he is now “fit and raring to go”.
With Iran sitting on zero points and a goal difference of minus four, they will have to attack. Or, at the very least, they will have to be more adventurous than they were against England. This should suit Wales, who have speed on the break. They also have Moore, who is expected to start after his excellent impact in midweek, to hold onto the ball.
Probable Wales starting XI
Hennessey; Mepham, Rodon, Davies; Roberts, Ampadu, Allen, Williams; Bale, Moore, James
Where is it taking place?
The game will be held at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in Al-Rayyan, which Wales should already be familiar with after facing USA on the same pitch just days before.
The stadium took its design from the desert landscape around the ground and Qatar. It features several sand dune-esque structures after a redesign for the World Cup following its initial build completion in 2003.
There should be no problems with the heat, thanks to air conditioning systems that were designed by Dr Saud Abdulaziz Abdul Ghani, a Sudanese graduate of mechanical thermal fluids from Nottingham University.
What TV channel is the game on?
Wales vs Iran will be on BBC One.
Wales and Iran have only met in a clash once before, back in 1978, at the Aryamehr Stadium in Tehran during which Wales prevailed to win 1-0.
How did both teams qualify?
Wales booked their place in Qatar with a 1-0 win over Ukraine in a one-off play match. Iran was the first team from Asia to qualify for this year’s World Cup tournament with a 1-0 win over Iraq in Tehran back in January.