Wales vs. Iran World Cup Odds, Pick: Expect the Unexpected in Group B Fixture
England established themselves as the clear favorite and dominant side in Group B with a 6-2 drubbing of Iran on Monday, setting up some crucial clashes in the next week between the other three teams in the group. That begins with the Wales vs. Iran match on Friday.
The Iranians looked like one of the worst sides in the entire tournament in the beatdown loss to England, while Wales showed their resilience in fighting back for a 1-1 draw with the United States. The market responded to England’s resounding victory and the line has moved from Wales +140 on the three-way moneyline, all the way down to about +110.
Iran performed worse than expectations and Wales met market expectations in their respective matches, but has the market gone too far in its respect to Wales? Let’s dive in.
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Throughout their time under Rob Page, Wales have been much better out of possession as a narrow defend and counter side than in possession looking to break an opponent down. Wales have only had more than 50% of the ball in one of their last eight competitive matches, a 1-0 loss to Poland in the Nations League.
Page made a tactical decision to start Harry Wilson and Daniel James as the two wide players against the United States. They rely more on getting the ball to their feet and using their pace in behind. Wales were dismal in the first half, couldn’t break the press of the United States and attempted just one shot in the opening 45 minutes.
The switch to big striker Kieffer Moore in the second half for James was a clear indication that Page wanted to be more direct. Long balls up to Moore bypassed the United States’ press and let the Welsh attack produce from there with the ball already progressed. This approach is significantly more difficult to pull off against a team that is defending deeper.
Both teams need all three points in this match so Iran can’t entirely sit back, but Wales’ reliance on Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey leaves some question marks about their energy levels too. Both players were spent by the end of the match and neither have played a lot of matches in the last few months.
If they’re not fully recovered, that would further limit an already mediocre Welsh attack. Iran were extremely passive against England and the Three Lions had the overwhelmingly superior talent to exploit that depth.
Wales aren’t the side to create loads of chances through possession combinations.Iran Seeking Stronger Defensive Showing
A lot of people will probably write off Iran after their poor display against England, but manager Carlos Queiroz made some personnel and tactical choices that suggest he had an eye on this match and the next match with regards to their chances of advancing. Iran were in damage control from the opening minutes against England and took very few chances when in possession.
The plan works if you can hold out and not concede the goal for a while. But England scored two shots that were low probability finishes. Between Jude Bellingham’s header and Bukayo Saka’s volley into the top corner, England had two goals before Iran could even settle in.
Bayer Leverkusen forward Sardar Azmoun didn’t start for Iran because he’s not fully fit, but there’s reason to expect him back in the lineup on Friday. His combinations with Mehdi Taremi really opened up England’s defense a couple times in the second half to create chances.
You can’t just throw out the priors on Iran because they got carved open by England. That’s as much a product of results bias. England created about 2 xG, but they had an excellent finishing day to post that ugly number on the scoreboard. Iran should be downgraded, but not that much if Azmoun is able to return to the lineup.Wales vs. Iran Pick
One of the biggest challenges of the second and third matches of the group stage is deciding what is real and what is not from the opening match.
Iran’s tactical plan to defend England was quite poor, but defending Wales are an entirely different challenge – a less strenuous one given the Welsh’s challenges to break down opponents.
Whether Page attempts to go with James and the more wide approach, or Moore with the direct approach, Wales aren’t a team I want to bet to get margin. The lone match where Wales played well at the Euros last summer was when they dusted Turkey in transition.
Queiroz, if anything, will be more conservative early in this match and force Wales to be the aggressor. The result of that is likely to look a lot like a stalemate.
For that reason, I’m fading the line movement toward Wales and backing the Iranians to get at least a point. I had this spot circled for Iran pre-tournament and hopefully Azmoun is back in the starting lineup to bolster the attack.
The Pick: Iran +0.5 (-130)
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