Rob Page admitted Wales “deserved” to lose their second group stage match of the World Cup as Iran “punished” them in a 2-0 defeat.
Page has refused to use Wayne Hennessey’s red card as an excuse as he thinks Iran won comfortably on Friday.
Iran hit the post twice and had a goal disallowed before Roozbeh Cheshmi scored in the 98th minute. Ramin Rezaeian added a second escape moments later.
Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, so often architects of Wales’ successes over the years, have both been underwhelming and now need a win against England next Tuesday to have any hope of reaching the knockout stages.
Page even seemed to refer to the England match as Wales’ “final” match of the tournament, underlining how difficult the road ahead is for the Dragons from here.
“This is hard to accept,” Page said. “I told them before every game: ‘Go and show the world what you show us every day’, and this is not a true reflection of that team.
“Today they got their real rewards, they deserved that defeat. We fell well below the standards that got us into the World Cup, if we had met those standards we would have done well. And if you do it in the best competitions, you get punished.”
When asked about the match against England, Page said: “We want to finish the competition on a high note. It’s not in our hands to go through, but we want to finish with a good performance and a win. We are low at the moment but we will lift them up tomorrow for a tough game to finish with.”
Hennessey was initially shown a yellow card after running out of his net and crashing into Porto’s Iranian striker Mehdi Taremi, but referee Mario Escobar was advised to review the decision and returned from the monitor brandishing a Red card.
The challenge was reckless and high, whether or not there was cover behind him.
Victory for Iran means their match against the United States – which was always going to be highly charged given the political history between the nations – could now be winners for a place in the round of 16.
Queiroz felt that too much external pressure had been placed on his players before the England match.
The team have become a political lightning rod for the unrest in Iran, with pro-regime critics criticizing them for not singing the anthem before the England match and protesters attacking them for not doing enough to highlight the plight of women in the country.
The Portuguese coach criticized the Iranians in the stands during the England match who booed his team, but was much more complimentary of the fans after the Wales match.
“The crowd deserves a special word today,” he said. “It was a joy, it was happiness, it was drama, I love this game when things are like this.”
He hailed his team’s character, adding: “It was really very emotional because we recovered from a difficult situation.”
Cheshmi admitted the team found the opening days of the World Cup extremely difficult.
“I would have to say that if the pressure was football-related it would be acceptable, but if the players were pressured unfairly it would not be right,” he said through an interpreter.
“Players were judged harshly and given non-football pressure. The whole team helped each other. I scored the goal but the team did the job.”
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