World Cup 2022: Wales reaching last 16 will be tough – Gareth Bale after Iran loss

World Cup 2022: Wales reaching last 16 will be tough – Gareth Bale after Iran loss

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Wales captain Gareth Bale says qualifying for the World Cup round of 16 “would be tough” after Friday’s 2-0 loss to Iran.

Robert Page’s side have one point from two games and need to beat England to have any chance of progressing.

Stoppage time goals from Roozbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian sealed the defeat for Wales, which also saw goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey sent off.

“It’s disgusting – there’s no other way to put it,” Bale said.

Manager Page was scathing in his assessment of Wales’ performance, which he described as “far from the levels we have set”.

He added: “When there are so many days off, there is only one result. It’s a tough dressing room at the minute, but we’ll be ready. [against England].”

Bale struggled to make an impact against a rejuvenated Iran, which rebounded from its first defeat 6-2 against England with a vibrant performance.

So often Wales’ talisman, Bale had the fewest touches (36) of any outfield player who played the entire game and managed just one shot on goal.

He also received the lowest score in BBC Sport Player Assessor for his performance (2.56), with teammate Aaron Ramsey barely above him at 2.63.

“We fought until the end but it’s tough when you go down to 10 men in the World Cup against good teams,” added Bale.

“We have to keep going and we have to get back up straight away. It will be tough now, but we have to try and beat England – it’s as simple as that.”

‘Wales cannot continue to rely on Bale’

Bale’s negligible influence has been dismissed by BBC pundits, with former Wales defender James Collins saying the captain will be aware his performance “wasn’t what we expected”.

The former Real Madrid and Tottenham striker joined Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles FC in the summer but has only started two games in the United States.

He was also quiet in Wales’ opener against the USAbut scored a late penalty to save a draw.

And concerns are growing over Wales’ possible overreliance on the 33-year-old.

“We can’t keep counting on Bale to bail us out by doing something magical or scoring a world goal,” Collins said on BBC Radio 5 Live.

“He knows he hasn’t reached the levels we are used to and we expect more.”

Former Scotland winger Pat Nevin went further, saying: “If his name wasn’t Gareth Bale he would have been knocked out in the game and he wouldn’t be playing in the next one.

“He didn’t make an impact and didn’t try to overtake anyone. We know Bale from the past and it didn’t look like the same guy.”

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