Iran will have backup goalkeeper against Wales and star Bale
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Iran goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand will miss the World Cup match against Wales with a concussion, giving likely replacement Hossein Hosseini a tall task against star Gareth Bale.
Iran, in last place in Group B after a 6-2 loss to England, plays Wales on Friday at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.
Hosseini already faced a daunting opponent in Qatar when he entered the game after Beiranvand was stretchered off in the first half of the tournament-opening loss on Monday before England had opened the scoring.
Beiranvand was allowed to continue playing by Iran’s training staff after a collision with a teammate, but later collapsed to the field and was taken to a local hospital.
Iran had only said Beiranvand had a nose injury and that the goalkeeper was back with the team Tuesday while wearing a mask.
But Beiravnand was diagnosed with a concussion, so he’d be ruled out under the organizing body’s return-to-play measures. Iran head coach Carlos Quieroz confirmed at a pre-match press conference that Beiranvand would not play.
The coach said defense would be a whole team effort, without specifically naming his starter for Wales.
“It is medical protocol that we need to respect,” Quieroz said. “He will not play tomorrow, but he will be ready for the next game.”
Bale converted on a penalty kick in the 82nd minute to earn Wales a 1-1 draw with the United States in its opener.
The draw gave Wales a point in its first World Cup match since 1958 and a shot at the knockout round within reach. Bale, who played for Major League Soccer’s LAFC this past season, now has 41 goals in 109 international appearances.
Bale struggled with injuries and fitness for most of the year, but scored on a header for LAFC in the MLS Cup championship earlier this month. LAFC won on a penalty shootout after a 3-3 draw with Philadelphia.
With his next appearance, Bale will have the most appearances on Wales’ national team with 110, surpassing teammate Chris Gunter.
He is not Wales’ only threat. Kieffer Moore, a striker for Bournemouth, could make his first World Cup start. Moore was a second-half sub against the United States and immediately made an impact.
Joe Allen has passed his fitness tests and is ready to play, coach Robert Page said. The Swansea midfielder missed the opener because of a hamstring injury.
Iran, which qualified for the last two World Cups, hasn’t ever advanced to the knockout round. And it doesn’t appear the team will go through this year, either.
Iran’s trip to Qatar has been clouded by unrest at home. The nation, which sits across the Persian Gulf from Qatar, has been rocked by protests following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died while being held by morality police for allegedly violating the country’s compulsory dress code for women.
Activists called for Iran to be expelled from the World Cup before the tournament started. In their opener, the Iranians did not sing the country’s national anthem in an apparent show of solidarity with protestors.
Hard-line Iranian media sought to blame the loss to England on the unrest. The daily Kayhan said Iran’s rout came after “weeks of unfair and unprecedented psychological warfare against the team … from domestic and foreign-based traitors.”
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