Soccer

Focus on Iran: What can Wales expect from their next Group B opponents?

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Wales are back in World Cup action against Iran on Friday.

Iran’s Group B campaign got off to a dreadful start with a 6-2 defeat to England.

Here, the PA news agency takes a closer look at Wales’ opponents and whether they can bounce back from that opening defeat in Qatar.

How did they get to Qatar?

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Iran were the first Asian team to seal qualification for this World Cup as they wrapped up progress with three matches to spare and topped Group A ahead of South Korea.

What is their World Cup pedigree?

This is Team Melli’s sixth finals appearances, having made their debut in 1978.

Iran are at their third successive World Cup and aiming to make it out of the group stage for the first time.

Sat 20th in FIFA’s rankings – the highest ranked team in the Asian Football Confederation and one place below Wales – they have won just two of their previous 16 matches at the World Cup.

Who is the coach?

Dragan Skocic led Iran to World Cup qualification but the divisive head coach’s dismissal led to the return of Carlos Queiroz.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s former assistant at Manchester United was in charge of the Asian side at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups during a successful seven-year stint.

Spells at the helm of Colombia and Egypt followed, with the latter’s penalty shootout defeat to Senegal in qualification leaving Queiroz out of work and ready to watch Qatar 2022 from afar. But Iran’s late call means the 69-year-old is managing at the finals for the fourth time.

What is their recent form?

Mehdi Taremi secured Iran an impressive 1-0 friendly win against Uruguay in September, which was followed by a 1-1 draw with fellow World Cup qualifiers Senegal.

Iran also squeezed in a pre-tournament friendly on November 10 against Nicaragua, which they won 1-0, but their defence was ripped apart in their heavy loss to England.

Who is the player to watch?

Porto’s Taremi has impressed on the Champions League stage and scored twice against England, one from the penalty spot.

Taremi could form an exciting front three with ex-Brighton winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Sardar Azmoun, who is nicknamed the ‘Iranian Messi’ but was only used as a substitute against England.

Goalkeeper blues

First-choice goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand has been ruled out of the Wales game after breaking his nose and suffering concussion against England.

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Beiranvand was pictured training in a mask on Thursday at Iran’s Doha base but Queiroz said: “There is medical protocol we need to respect and there is no way to move around the protocol, so he will not play.”

Back-up goalkeeper Hossein Hosseini, who was unconvincing against England after replacing Beiranvand, will start against Wales.

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