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

Gareth Bale and Harry Kane
Host nation: Qatar Dates: 20 November-18 December Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Day-by-day TV listings Full coverage details

A historic World Cup victory is being chased by Wales on Friday, while England are seeking three points which would secure their place in the knockout stages.

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

Group B rivals and current leaders England also want a win against the USA (19:00 GMT), which will assure them of a place in the last 16 if they can achieve it.

Schools cancel lessons to cheers Wales on

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

Schools in Wales are allowed to cancel lessons to let pupils watch Robert Page’s side take on Iran, with more than 1,000 schools expected to take part in “Cymru Football Friday”.

Instead of being in Maths classes, children across the nation will be hoping to see Gareth Bale overtake team-mate Chris Gunter as Wales’ most-capped man in what could be their decisive match in Group B.

With a point on the board, and leaders England as their final group opponents, Wales know victory will be important if they want to make it through to the knockout stages.

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

“But it’s more important we try and get the victory,” he added. “Hopefully we can and it’ll make it even more special.

“It will be a difficult game versus 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 is what many supporters will be hoping to see after a strong start to the tournament by Gareth Southgate’s men when they beat Iran 6-2 in their opener.

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

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

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

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

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

“These players are putting the country on the map and regaining our respectability on the world stage – we need to keep doing that.”

‘Wales need to seize their chance’ – analysis

Bale and Page did not go as far as saying it, but Wales know this game against Iran is essentially 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 favourites England looming on Tuesday – and with the USA facing Iran on the same day – Wales do not want to leave it until the last match to claim their first win at a World Cup since 1958.

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

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

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