Rob Page admits Wales ‘weren’t in the game at all’ after disappointing Iran loss | World Cup 2022

Rob Page struggled to contain his annoyance after saying too many Wales players endured off-days in the defeat by Iran that left their chances of progressing to the last 16 of their first World Cup for 64 years hanging by a thread.

Iran had a first-half goal disallowed and twice hit the woodwork before scoring twice in second-half stoppage time to earn victory. Wales, who salvaged a late draw against the USA on Monday, again struggled to stamp their authority and had Wayne Hennessey sent off on 86 minutes after he inadvertently wiped out the Iran striker Mehdi Taremi when attempting to clear the ball.

Page said he would lift his players, many of whom crashed to the floor at full time, before Tuesday’s final Group B match against England. “We can’t sit and cry about it,” the manager said. “We want to give our supporters something to cheer about. They have shown massive commitment to come over [to Qatar] and it really disappoints me that we’ve given them that. We’ll bounce back, we’ll pick them up and go again.”

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Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey were among the Wales players who seemed to wilt in the intense afternoon heat before Iran prospered. “We weren’t in the game at all,” Page said. “Even in the first half, before the sending-off … you can carry one or two players if there are off-days but when the majority of the team are not quite at it there is only going to be one outcome, unfortunately. It [qualifying] is out of our hands now.”

Hennessey was initially booked for clattering Taremi as the striker latched on to a through ball before a VAR review led to his caution being upgraded. Page acknowledged his side were second-best.

“Before the sending-off I wasn’t happy with the performance,” he said. “They hit the post twice, they had a goal ruled out for offside, which was marginal. We just couldn’t get going in the game and that disappoints me the most. We fell well below the standards that over recent months have given us the success to qualify for the World Cup … when you do that in top competitions you get punished.”

Carlos Queiroz, the Iran head coach, said he was delighted with the way his players responded from their 6-2 thrashing by England. Queiroz dedicated the victory to Iran fans, many of whom inside the stadium jeered his players singing the national anthem after they had remained silent during Monday’s anthem.

“It was very emotional but special because we rebounded from a difficult situation,” Queiroz said. “Nobody likes to lose and when you lose with those numbers it is always a tough job. We went back to our roots. I think we played brilliantly. We wanted to give this gift to Iran fans. This game was a gift to the fans from the north, south, east, west – it’s a gift to all of them.”

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