Sibling rivalry intensifies as England, neighbours Wales clash in decider tie
A pivotal battle of the Brits takes place in World Cup 2022 Group B on Tuesday evening, as Wales take on familiar foes England at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.
The Three Lions will progress to the last 16 as group winners with all three points, while Wales - who lost 2-0 to Iran on Friday - must triumph and hope that other results go their way to stand a chance of making it through.
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 lacklustre 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 four-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 own 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 in fact 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.