World Cup 2022: Wales yearn for historic victory, England seek to qualify

World Cup 2022: Wales yearn for historic victory, England seek to qualify

Gareth Bale and Harry Kane
Wales captain Gareth Bale could overtake team-mate Chris Gunter as Wales’ most-possessed man if he plays
Host Nation: Qatar Dates: November 20-18. December Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and BBC Sport website and app. Day-by-day TV listingsFull coverage details

A historic World Cup win is being chased by Wales on Friday, while England seek three points that will secure their place in the knockout stages.

And when Wales take to the pitch for their crucial Group B clash with Iran on Friday (10:00 GMT on BBC One), they know a first World Cup win in 64 years will help their chances of progressing.

Group B rivals and current leaders England are also looking for a win against the USA (19:00 GMT), which would secure them a place in the last 16 if they can achieve it.

Schools cancel lessons to cheer on Wales

The whole country will have their eyes fixed on Wales’ second group games – even those meant to be in the class.

Schools in Wales are permission to cancel the teaching allowing pupils to watch Robert Page’s side take on Iran, with more than 1,000 schools expected to take part in ‘Cymru Football Friday’.

Instead of going to maths lessons, kids across the nation will be hoping to see Gareth Bale overtake team-mate Chris Gunter as Wales’ most possessed man in what could be their decisive Group B clash.

With a point on the board, and leaders England as their final group opponents, Wales know victory will be vital if they are to progress to the knockout stages.

Captain Bale, who has 109 caps for Wales, said it was an “honour” to represent them as he approaches a milestone.

“But it’s more important that we try to get the win,” he added. “Hopefully we can and that will make it even more special.

“It will be a difficult game against Iran – they are a very good team. They are here for a reason, but of course we believe we can beat them.”

Can England get the job done early?

Much the same from England?

That’s what many supporters will be hoping to see after a strong start to the tournament by Gareth Southgate’s men as they thrashed Iran 6-2 in their opener.

USA are on the road and England have been given a boost after it was revealed that captain Harry Kane will be fit to play despite an injury scare, which involved a scan of his ankle.

As the only team to take three points so far in Group B, England know a second win on Friday will see them progress with a game to spare.

But is there more at stake? Southgate said on Thursday that it had been a “good period for English football” and that the nation was “regaining our respectability” on the football stage.

“At junior level, at senior level, with our women’s team, there’s a lot of positive things going on,” he added.

“We feel we can be competitive for many years to come and that’s the goal – to have a sustained challenge in the later stages of the big competitions, and we haven’t done that for many years.

“These players are putting the country on the map and regaining our respectability on the world stage – we must continue to do so.”

“Wales must seize the opportunity” – analysis

BBC Sport Wales’ Dafydd Pritchard in Doha

Bale and Page didn’t go so far as to say so, but Wales know this game against Iran is essentially a must win.

They were woefully off the pace in the first half against the USA, but thanks to Bale’s late penalty they at least have a point to build on.

With group favorites England looming on Tuesday – and with the USA facing Iran on the same day – Wales will not want to leave it until the final game to claim their first World Cup win since 1958.

So they find themselves in a similar position to the one they found themselves in at Euro 2020 last year, where Wales, after an opening 1-1 draw with Switzerland, beat Turkey 2-0 to secure passage to the second round despite 1- 0 defeats for Italy in their last group game.

Wales would happily take a repeat if it meant reaching the last 16, although the average Welsh person would be less keen on England emulating Italy and going on to lift the trophy.

Kane’s fitness a big relief – analysis

BBC Sport chief football writer Phil McNulty in Doha

England manager Gareth Southgate is happy with Kane’s fitness and made all the right noises about playing his captain from the start.

Southgate’s priority is to qualify for the knockout stages as quickly as possible and victory will ensure that, opening up the possibility of some squad rotation in the final game against Wales – although every member of England’s squad will be desperate to find their way into it.

England’s 6-1 win over Iran has been set in the context of the embarrassments suffered by Argentina and Germany, and early indications are that this could be a very open World Cup.

Kane’s fitness is key to England’s plans given his unprecedented record at this level, which leaves him just three goals short of overtaking Wayne Rooney’s record of 53 and becoming the country’s record goalscorer.

And while Kane was not on the scoresheet against Iran, he was still a hugely influential figure, so the news that he has not suffered a serious foot injury will have been a huge relief for Southgate and England.

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