School lessons were paused and work took a back seat as Wales sought to boost their World Cup knockout hopes in Friday’s showdown with Iran, but the Dragons produced a lackluster showing and were deservedly punished for it, but not until the 98th minute.
Following Wayne Hennessey’s red card for a dangerously high tackle on Mehdi Taremi, Wales succumbed to injury-time strikes from Roozbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Razaeian to leave supporters devastated, and only a particular set of circumstances will see Rob Page’s side qualify now.
Bottom of the section with just one point to their name, Wales must beat England and hope that Iran’s clash with the USA ends in a draw to secure a place in the knockout stages, but a win for Team Melli or the Stars and Stripes will eliminate unless they can thump Gareth Southgate’s side by a seven-goal margin.
Even with 11 men on the pitch against Iran, Wales never really looked like scoring – with Page describing his side’s pre-red card performance as “not acceptable” – and their winless streak in all competitions now stands at an abysmal seven matches.
Should Wales fail to take all three points in Tuesday’s game, it will mark the first time in their history that they have gone through a major tournament without a single win to their name, but they may be able to take some encouragement from England’s similarly dismal showing against the USA.
Plenty of Three Lions fans certainly enjoyed Wales’ defeat on Friday lunchtime, but only several hours later, some of the England contingents in the crowd appeared to boo their players off the field after an uneventful draw with the USA.
Christian Pulisic’s effort which crashed against the crossbar represented the best chance of the game, as England lost the attacking acumen that saw them hit Iran for six on an opening day and missed the chance to wrap up a top-two finish with a game to spare.
Southgate questioned whether his players were jeered off the pitch, but the Three Lions boss cannot deny that much more will be needed from his side on Tuesday, where a win would confirm England’s place in the last 16 as Group B winners.
A draw would also be enough for the 1966 champions to progress – albeit while leading to a familiar sense of pessimism for the rest of the tournament – and a paltry record for England has seen them post just one win from their last eight in all tournaments.
Tuesday’s game will mark the first time in history that the Three Lions have faced a fellow British nation in the World Cup, and there will certainly be no love lost between the two sides as they prepare to meet for the 104th time, with England winning the last six in a row.
Wales number one Hennessey will take his place on the suspension for this one following his red card against Iran, opening the door for Danny Ward to start in between the sticks after a period of notable improvement at Leicester City.
Page did not pick up any new injury concerns in the loss to Iran, where Joe Allen was able to come off the bench following his hamstring injury, but the Swansea City man was largely at fault for Cheshmi’s long-range effort with his poor clearance.
National team heroes Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey were practically anonymous in their matchday two showings, but Page is unlikely to consider dropping the duo for such an important fixture.
Daniel James and Brennan Johnson should be considered for places, though, as Kieffer Moore provides a much-needed physical presence in the final third.
As for England, Southgate could be working with a fully-fit squad for Tuesday’s crunch clash after welcoming James Maddison back to training from a knee injury, and he is facing plenty of difficult selection dilemmas.
Kyle Walker’s return to fitness could see the Manchester City man return to the right-hand side over Kieran Trippier, despite calls for Southgate to introduce Trent Alexander-Arnold into the fray.
Southgate was reluctant to bring on Phil Foden for Mason Mount in the number 10 role on Friday, but with Bukayo Saka enduring an off night against the USA, Foden could push for a start out wide.
Harry Kane is still waiting for his first non-penalty goal in England colors in 2022, but there is virtually no chance of the skipper losing his place in the side here.
Wales’s possible starting lineup:
Ward; Mepham, Rodon, Davies; Roberts, Ramsey, Ampadu, Williams; James, Moore, Bale
England’s possible starting lineup:
Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Bellingham; Sterling, Mount, Foden; Kane
Wales vs England Score Prediction
Wales have no choice but to go all out to win this game, with only a heavy win giving the Dragons a chance of qualification from Group B.
Even a 33-year-old Gareth Bale is still unplayable on his day and Kieffer Moore’s aerial dominance could cause England’s defense some problems – however, in all honesty, this should be a straightforward win for the Three Lions.
The gaps in the Welsh midfield have been incredibly noticeable in their first two games, and as they throw men forward in search of goals there should be plenty of space for England to exploit.
Prediction: Wales 0-2 England